COVID-19 :: Government Declarations
(19 May 2021)
Camp Luther ... Vespers Knoll cross
West Virginia - Western Maryland Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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It is very difficult to keep up with the executive orders issued by Federal and state/commonwealth governments. The last few weeks, there has been a flurry of announcements from the CDC and the states/commonwealth. We are trying our best to keep this information up-to-date, but, should you be aware of more recent information, please send a note to Bishop@WV-WMD.org, including the link to the site were you saw the information. Official government sites are preferred.

When trying to determine what applies in your community, keep in mind that the most restrictive of Federal, state/commonwealth, and local orders should be followed. Beyond that, congregation leaders should think carefully about their local situation and setting. What is reasonable for one congregation may not be reasonable for the next.

CDCFederal

Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides a wide range of information and guidance related to COVID-19. The front page for this information may be accessed at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

The CDC has opened a "One-Stop Shop Toolkits" page with resources for various communities (conveniently organized by community). There is a block for Community and Faith-Based Organizations, but a more comprehensive set of CDC materials can be found on its master page for Community and Faith-Based Organizations. Even if you have looked at these before, you should do so again. CDC updates these from time to time with the latest recommendations. Additionally, you will find, on these various CDC pages, posters that you can download and print.

Fully Vaccinated ChartLatest Guidance (5/18/21)

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the new guidance from CDC related to fully vaccinated persons. It should be kept in mind that the CDC provides guidance, but it is your state/commonwealth and local governments that set and enforce community health restrictions. Always check your state/commonwealth and local government orders.

CDC's new guidance is nicely summarized on its "Choosing Safer Activities" infographic. There is a distinction made between those who are not yet vaccinated and those fully vaccinated. You may download the chart for your own use. Fuller explanation can be found on the "Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People" posted by the CDC on 13 May 2021. This should be thoroughly reviewed by church leaders. A good summary is posted on "When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated: How to Protect Yourself and Others."

There is a separate and equally important "Guidance for Unvaccinated People: How to Protect Yourself & Others" posted by the CDC on 8 March 2021. It would be a mistake to read the "Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People" without reading this guidance.

Also important for congregation leaders are the following guidances from the CDC. They should be read in conjunction with more recent statements.

Congregation leaders, be sure to read the entire guidance and the sub-documents appropriate to your situation or setting.

It may take a while for state/commonwealth and local restrictions to change. These offices will need time to digest and evaluate the CDC guidance. It some cases, state/commonwealth and local governments may determine that the CDC guidance is not applicable to their settings or to particular situations. They may also be responding to outbreaks or other local conditions. As the CDC's "Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People" states, "...fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."[emphasis added]

It should also be noted that churches, as private entities, are free to adopt stricter practices and impose stricter self-restrictions than those imposed by government agencies.

State/Commonwealth

Be advised local governments may impose emergency measures which give force of law to elements of the Federal guidance or even exceed it. Keep tuned to announcement from Federal, state, and local officials.

The following states and commonwealth are included because WV-WMD Synod has congregations physically located in those jurisdictions.

MDDH
                  LogoState of Maryland: Update 5/18/21

The latest on Maryland and COVID-19 can be found through the Maryland Department of Health's COVID-19 Information Portal.

State of Emergency & Executive Orders

Gov. Hogan renewed the state of emergency by proclamation dated 12 May 2021.

Executive Order #21-05-12-01, also issued 12 May 2021 but taking effect 15 May 2021, eased capacity restrictions on religious facilities. A press release summary from the Governor's office is available here.

N.B., county and municipal governments and health departments may have stricter standards than those promulgated by the state and permitted by the current level assigned to the county. Be sure to check with your county and municipal officials and continue to do so to remain current with the changing situation.

VDH LogoCommonwealth of Virginia: Update 5/18/21

Gov. Ralph Northam has issued the Seventh Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine, the order paking effect on 15 May 2021. Those provisions affecting religious practice are found in B.2(a) of the document. Congregation leaders should review this in detail.

Executive Order Seventy-Nine and Public Health Emergency Order 10 relates directly to masking. This order does not take effect until Friday, May 28. Again, congregation leaders should review this in detail.

Meanwhile, the VDH website states, as of this reporting,

VDH is currently updating guidance for fully vaccinated people. Thanks for your patience. As a reminder, until people are fully vaccinated, they should continue to follow all precautions recommended by public health (e.g., wear a mask, physically distance from others, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and wash hands often).

WV DHHRState of West Virginia: Update 5/18/2021

Mandatory Mask Order

Amid rising numbers of cases, Gov. Justice issued Executive Order 50-20, effective 7 July 2020, requiring face coverings (masks, etc.) in confined, indoor spaces. §1 of the order reads,

All individuals age 9 and over within the State of West Virginia Shall wear an adequate face covering when in confined, indoor spaces, other than when in one's residence or when actively engaged in the consumption of food and/or beverage, and when not able to adequately social distance from other individuals who do not reside in the same household.

There are exceptions for children under the age of 2 and "anyone who has trouble breathing,...is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance." Read the complete order for details.

The effects of the order were extended several times over the course of the pandemic, and various modifications were effected with respect to hospitality and health care settings.

On 19 April 2021, Gov. Justice issued Executive Order 12-21, effecting several orders issued throughout the pandemic. As this was before the CDC's issuance of new guidelines for fully vaccinated people, the order still maintains most safety restrictions.

Safer at Home Chart

Safer at Home

Governor Justice issued new protocols titled, "Safer at Home," that went into effect at 12:01 AM, 4 May 2020. Coupled with West Virginia Strong--The Comeback, a plan for the phased "reopening" of government, public, and private entities, Safer at Home presented both opportunities and challenges for churches.

In the crush of Execute Orders and guidances issued since, it is not absolutely clear at the time of this writing what is still applicable and what is archival. We leave the material her for reference and will attempt to clarify the situation in the weeks ahead.

For those WV churches in counties that are not listed as hotspots, Executive Order #32-20 should be reviewed. A summary chart of Safer at Home can be copied for easy reference. Under Safer at Home, churches are still considered "essential," but the Synod still advises that the higher standards set out in the states orders should be followed, i,e,
  • For purposes of gathering, whether worship, educational, or social, the attendance cap of 25 people should be observed;
  • For office and other daily operations, churches should consider themselves small businesses:
    • Can operate if business has 10 employees or fewer AND with limited customer interaction and customer contact;
    • Business must ensure that proper social distancing and hygiene practices are maintained.
Irrespective of all other aspects of the Safer at Home order, the elderly and and those classed in the vulnerable population category are "strongly encouraged to remain at home to the greatest extent possible."

Special guidance has been issued by the state for both churches and small businesses. These should be reviewed when developing reopening plans. Remember too to review CDC guidelines. Note well, it is not required that one reopens one's church. Prudence should trump passion. The State of WV encourages churches to
  • Limiting seating to every other pew,
  • Maintain physical distancing, and
  • Wearing face covering.

Again, the full guidance for churches should be consulted.

It should be noted that these orders may be superseded, and re-imposition of tighter restrictions is not impossible. Regularly checking for changes in  Federal, state, county, and municipal declarations and orders is recommended.

For more information about COVID-19 and the State of WV, visit WV DHHR's COVID-19 website.

 
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West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod, ℅ St. Paul Lutheran Church, 309 Baldwin Street, Morgantown, WV 26505
304-363-4030  +  Porter@WV-WMD.org