Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran COVID-19 Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage throughout our state, country, and world. At the end of May 2020 in Alabama, we were seeing 500+ new cases every day on average, yet by the peak in July we had 1500-2000 new cases per day. Now in early December 2020 in Alabama we are averaging 3000-4000 new cases per day. A twenty-fold increase since we shut our doors in the spring.  of September, Alabama has over 2,200 deaths; that is 4 times as many deaths from flu in any of the recent time periods. The U.S. has over 6 million cases and over 190,000 deaths. Treatments are continuing to be evaluated and there is hope that a vaccine will be available to the public by spring 2021, maybe sooner.

 

SOTH has formed a COVID-19 Task Force. To provide additional resources to the congregation we will update this COVID page periodically. When it is closer towards a returning to the building date, we will post our return protocols here as well.

 

Current Status (updated December 8, 2020)

We remain in Phase 1 of our COVID-19 transitioning process. The building remains closed, but the church is open and active in ministry. Please check out the home page for all of our current ministry opportunities.

 

Remember if you do come in the building for relief or maintenance activities:

  • Remember to sign in with your name, date, contact number every time you enter the building. These are posted at each entrance.
  • Wear a mask at all times, even if you are alone. This will help decrease our cleaning should an exposure occur.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Do not enter the building or attend a church activity if you are sick with fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Please notify one of our COVID-19 notifiers if you have been in the building or at a church activity and test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who tested positive. Please see weekly bulletin for contact information.

 

We continue to offer a Brief Holy Communion service on the second Sunday of the month. Please click here for videos on our protocol and plans for the safety of all. See [link] for main Sunday worship and other virtual services we continue to offer during this time.

 

We continue to watch the data for Alabama closely to know when it is safe for us to transition to Phase 2. We have adopted a multi-phase approach. We are planning for how we will incorporate vaccine availability and uptake into our planning. Phase 2 will allow the meeting of small groups to resume with groups <10 people at a time.

 

Guidelines

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: LINK

 

National Guidelines: LINK

 

ELCA National Guidelines: “Be mindful that the “staged” or “phased” approach presented in a number of resources will likely not be a linear one; there may be times of gradual reopening as infections decrease, followed by restrictions if new waves of infections emerge. In all situations, you will want to err on the side of love for your neighbor and know that change will be inevitable. Patience, grace, and flexibility will be necessary as you strive to make the most appropriate decisions for the people of God in your place at this time. In addition to worship planning, it will be helpful to spend time reflecting upon on what you have done online or in-person, as this time will likely lead to new insights and discoveries for worshiping community.”

 

ELCA-Southeast Synod: LINK

 

May 14 Letter from Bishop Strickland: LINK

 

Extended Guidelines: LINK

 

Executive Summary from ELCA-SES Extended Guidelines: “All are at risk, regardless of race, age, religion, occupation, and health status. Up to 50% of transmission of the virus causing COVID-19 can occur from people who have no symptoms. The virus is spread by close physical contact and exposed surfaces;  the virus can spread at least 6 feet in the air, it can remain in the air for up to 3 hours, and it can remain on surfaces for 72 hours. There remains no vaccine or drug to cure COVID-19. Our only tactic to save lives, protect our loved ones, and show mercy to our neighbor is to physically distance ourselves (aka, social distancing). We must stay home as much as possible, wear cloth face coverings (i.e, masks), wash our hands frequently, and transition into a new normal way of life. Our pre-pandemic old way of life is over. It is not going to return. We can however successfully transition to a new normal that includes returning to in-person worship and other activities we desperately desire. But we must do so cautiously, methodically and thoughtfully. Until there is a vaccine against COVID-19, it will continue plaguing our lives and hamper our transition to physical gatherings.”

 

Ecumenical Guidelines: Resuming Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life during a Pandemic: LINK

 

Ecumenical Guidelines: “Whatever the Church does in its gatherings and other ministries expresses our understanding of who God is, what it means to be disciples of Jesus, and how the Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses to what God intends for the world. In times of crisis, when we must address new challenging practical concerns, our basic theological convictions still apply: love of God and neighbor; regard for human bodies and fellowship; worship and sacraments; inclusive hospitality that welcomes all and avoids stigmatizing others; and the beauty of God, the world, and human creativity.”

 

Centers for Disease Control: LINK

 

The CDC has a lot of different guidance published. Common guidance throughout includes wearing cloth face masks, washing your hands, extra cleaning, physical distancing > 6 feet, and staying home (particularly when you may be sick).

 

Updated CDC guidance on defining a COVID-19 Exposure (October 2020): A close contact of COVID-19 is an individual who spends a cumulative amount of time of 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes) with anyone (e.g., could be multiple people) who has COVID-19 infection. This is typically defined as exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less, but factors to consider include proximity (closer distance increases exposure risk), duration of exposure (longer exposure increases risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest level of virus shedding), and other environmental factors. “Because the general public has not received training on proper selection and use of respiratory PPE, such as an N95, the determination of close contact should generally be made irrespective of whether the contact was wearing respiratory PPE.  At this time, differential determination of close contact for those using fabric face coverings is not recommended.”

 

If you are sick, look at these guidelines: LINK

 

If someone in your home is sick, look at these guidelines: LINK

 

Data

 

There is a lot of information on the web. The consistent, reliable source of data that we are relying on at this time are from the state health department. The CDC also now provides data by state of hospital capacity during this time.

 

Alabama State Health Department COVID-19 Dashboard: LINK

 

CDC COVID-19 Hospital Capacity: LINK

 

COVID Exit Strategy (lists key indicators to follow: 14-day trend of new cases, cases per 100,000, test positivity, tests per 100,000): LINK (https://www.covidexitstrategy.org/)