COVID-19 Safety & Opening Plan (Excluding In-person Worship)
St. Thomas United Church
V2.0 AUGUST 31, 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and in response to provincial guidelines, St. Thomas United Church (STUC) has been temporarily closed since March 15, 2020, with the sole exception of programs deemed to be essential services. Closure of the church building has impacted regular Sunday worship services and a variety of congregational activities, as well as the programs of local community groups and small businesses that use the facility on a donation or rental basis.
As circumstances have improved in Alberta, STUC is now looking at a gradual re-opening of the facility to support congregational and community / small business programs, within the provisions of Alberta’s Guidance for Places of Worship and the City of Calgary’s Face Coverings Bylaw.
This Safety & Opening Plan outlines the essential elements of STUC’s opening strategy and the protocols that user groups will be expected to follow as they undertake their programs and activities in the church building.
This Plan is a “living document” and may be updated from time to time as warranted by changing circumstances.
1. SCOPE AND TARGET AUDIENCE
This Safety & Opening plan covers all uses of the church building except for Worship Services, which pose several unique circumstances that will be addressed separately from the main opening strategy. While many elements of this Plan are relevant to Worship Services, it is intended for the awareness and reference of Internal and External user groups including community organizations, small businesses and congregational groups. A separate document will be developed for in-person worship services.
2. GOALS AND TIMING
The goal of the Plan is to make the church building available to support the congregation and the local community in a way that is both timely and safe. The ongoing safety of building users and those whom they may come in contact with outside of the church is of paramount importance in the opening strategy. Timely and successful reopening will require:
- Close consultation / collaboration between church representatives and user groups regarding the size of the group and the nature of the activity, so that appropriate venues can be assigned and scheduled and protocols fine-tuned as warranted; and
- Conscientious and ‘hands-on’ observance of safety protocols by all users.
The plan envisions an incremental opening. Select small groups will be allowed in August 2020 and other groups beginning in September. Once initiated, the opening will be completed as expeditiously as practicable, mindful of the underlying need for caution and ongoing monitoring and responsiveness to the larger provincial strategy. STUC reserves the right to scale back the reopening if case numbers rise or Alberta Health mandates new restrictions.
3. KEY CONSIDERATIONS IN PLANNING AND BUILDING USE
Basic Protocols for Groups and Individuals
The Plan is predicated on the assumption that all users of the building will adhere to the following basic protocols, which have been well publicized and are already widely adhered to within the province.
1. SELF-DISTANCING: Maintain an optimal distance of 2m (sometimes cited as 6 feet) from other individuals.
2. COUGHING: Cough or sneeze into the elbow area or otherwise ‘cover-up’.
3. HAND WASHING: Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap or approved disinfectant.
4. FACE TOUCHING: Avoid touching the face area.
5. STAYING HOME: Stay home / do not attend an activity if feeling unwell or have a fever.
6. FACE MASKS: Wear a mask for the protection of others as required by Calgary’s Face Coverings Bylaw which provides a list of acceptable exceptions.
7. SIGNAGE: Comply with all temporary signage and markers distributed throughout the building. This may include but not be limited to door posters, physical spacing signs, directional arrows on floors or walls, physical spacing markers on floors, etc.
8. INSPECTIONS: STUC access may be subject to Alberta Health Services inspections to ensure protocols for COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship are being followed. For consideration of the safety and health of all user group participants and STUC representatives, it is imperative that these protocols are clearly understood and followed.
Higher Risk Activities
Certain activities are considered to pose a potentially higher risk of virus transmission. These include singing / choral group activities, and high-energy activities (e.g. running / fitness). Groups involved in these activities should consider enhanced measures such as, for example, increased self-distancing and / or more rigorous use of masks. It may be prudent to modify traditional norms in activities such as martial arts and dance, in order to respect self-distancing protocols.
Higher Risk Groups
Public Health Authorities have identified higher risk groups as Seniors and those with certain pre-existing health conditions. If your group includes members in these categories, it may be prudent and in their best interest to opt for (continued) remote meetings as a group, or to bring specific individuals into your group meeting via telephone or videoconferencing (e.g. Zoom).
Assignment and Limitation of Venue
Under the provisions of the Plan, venues for certain groups may need to be reassigned / rescheduled based primarily on group size and nature of the activity. This is a reflection of self-distancing requirements (which limit the number of participants in a given space), size limits on group gatherings, and the burden of increased cleaning / janitorial requirements which can be mitigated by optimizing use of space.
An additional consideration is that users should, to the extent practicable, limit their activities to their assigned venue and the nearby washroom(s), in order to minimize the potential for contaminating other surface areas in the building. Certain washrooms may be reserved for the use of church staff and will be signed accordingly.
Screening and Contact Tracing
Participants should be Screened for health status upon entry (Appendix A) and attendance should be tracked by the group representative to facilitate follow-up by community health representatives in the event of an outbreak. An “Attendance Roster” capturing participants’ name, contact information and screening status should be retained by the group representative on a ‘per meeting’ basis and available for reference by community health authorities, as needed, for an appropriate period-of-time. An electronic copy of the Roster should be provided to the church office (sample roster included in Appendix B).
Cleaning and Disinfecting of Surfaces
Cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces is important to mitigate the risk of virus transmission. STUC will ensure that this is done on a regular basis by the contracted janitorial service. Additionally, STUC will expect all user groups to clean and disinfect the prominent surfaces (door handles, rails, tabletops, etc.) that they use / anticipate using in their assigned venue (including washrooms) before and after use. Guidance on appropriate cleaning and disinfecting of public spaces can be found at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
A small temporary surcharge may be levied on renter / donor groups to help offset the additional janitorial and cleaning / disinfecting costs associated with COVID-19.
4. STUC’S EXPECTATIONS OF ALL USER GROUPS
Under the provisions of the Plan, all groups (congregational, renters / donors) using the church premises, will be expected to adhere to the following protocols in the interests of mutual and community safety. It is recommended that each group designate one (or more) individuals to help ensure that safety protocols are respected and to foster compliance by all participants.
AT THE BEGINNING OF AN EVENT
1. Clean / disinfect hands on entering the building.
2. Ensure that the main surfaces (door handles, etc.) are cleaned and disinfected.
3. Screen participants using the brief screening questionnaire supplied by STUC (Appendix A).
DURING THE EVENT
4. Foster compliance with basic protocols (self distancing, hand washing, suppress coughing, etc.).
5. To the extent possible, other than washroom use, stay within the assigned venue, and avoid random touching of surfaces (other than door handles, tabletops, and like surfaces).
6. Where convenient and if the weather is suitable, leave outside doors and windows open to improve air circulation.
7. Wear a non-medical mask or face-covering in compliance with the City of Calgary’s Face Coverings Bylaw.
BEFORE AND AS LEAVING AN EVENT
8. Ensure that the Attendance Roster (contact information + screening status) has been completed (sample Roster is included in Appendix B).
9. Ensure that windows are closed and locked and that the main surfaces (door handles, etc.) in your venue are cleaned and disinfected.
10. Clean / disinfect hands on exiting the building and ensure that the outside door is closed and locked.
11. Do not dispose of any PPE such as face masks or coverings in the church. Such materials should be taken home for disposal.
FOOD AND BEVERAGES
No food / sharing of food is allowed in the church building at this time. If members of your group require beverages, please have them bring their own. The kitchen adjacent to the Mountain View Hall is reserved for staff and is not to be used by any group without prior notification and approval in writing to facilitate any special cleaning that may be required for staff safety.
Unless your group members require anonymity, please provide a copy of your Attendance Roster to the church office electronically on a ‘per meeting’ basis and maintain a copy for your own records. In all cases, your group is responsible for ensuring that a contact list or equivalent is created for each meeting for purposes of contact tracing if there is an outbreak.
5. SUPPORTS PROVIDED BY STUC
STUC will ensure that the following supports are in place and readily accessible:
1. Signage regarding basic protocols (self-distancing, handwashing, etc.).
2. Cleaning and disinfecting materials for the use of congregational groups. Renters shall provide their own cleaning and disinfecting materials.
3. Standard screening questionnaire template for use by user groups (Appendix A).
4. Attendance Roster Template (Appendix B).
5. Group Profile and Plan Template (for Renter / Donor groups) (Appendix C).
6. ROLE OF THE CHURCH OFFICE
The Church Office will be the initial and primary point of contact for all groups (congregational, renters / donors). The church office is open weekdays from Monday to Thursday from 8 am to 4 pm. Contact the office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 403-241-0366 and speak to the Office Administrator. You can also contact the office directly from the church website at https://stthomasunited.ca/ (“Contact”).
7. GETTING STARTED
We are looking forward to collaborating with you to re-open the church in a gradual manner and within the constraints and safety protocols that are warranted in these times. Please remember that safety is paramount and in everyone’s best interest, and the protocols we are adopting reflect that.
For Renter / Donor Groups
If you represent a Renter or Donor group that wishes to use or re-initiate use of the building, please start by contacting the church office. Office personnel will put you in touch with a member of the Building and Property Team who will review building use protocols and collaborate with you to get things started.
Key steps for restarting are:
1. You will need to submit a Safety Plan (Appendix C), in writing, documenting the measures you will adopt to help mitigate risks associated with COVID-19. At minimum, the plan must conform to the protocols outlined in this guide but may also include provisions that are more rigorous as relevant or appropriate to your group. The amount of detail that is appropriate will vary by group; for example, plans for small groups conducting weekly meetings (sedentary, conversational) can be expected to be very straightforward, while those involved in fitness, children and youth programs, or meal preparation and distribution activities will need to be more rigorous.
2. You will need to sign a Space Use Agreement, which cites the terms and conditions of use, and accept responsibility for compliance with the protocols outlined in this Safety and Opening Plan.
For Congregational Groups
If you represent a Congregational group that wishes to use or reinitiate use of the building for small group activities (meetings, etc.) you will also need to submit a Safety Plan (Appendix C). See Step 1 for Renter/Donor groups. Then contact the Church Office (email@example.com ) and the Office Administrator will review your Safety Plan protocols and collaborate with you to identify a workable venue and schedule. Your group will need to designate a Lead person who will be responsible for ensuring that the group adheres to the protocols for building use. At this time, Executive Council is discouraging face-to-face meetings unless there is an essential reason for them to be held. This is because many congregants fall into higher risk categories and rooms in the church that provide sufficient space for proper physical distancing are limited.