Congregations are called to calm fear, disseminate accurate information, protect the most vulnerable and support each other in times of crisis. Rev. Kristen Peachey, Director of Faith and Health Partnerships, shares wonderful resources which help modify religious practices to help keep people safe while providing spiritual care and honoring important community traditions.
Dear Partners in Faith,
I want to share the latest information and resources about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to keep you and your faith community as up to date as possible.
The situation with COVID-19 continues to rapidly evolve with more cases being identified in the U.S. and evidence of person-to-person spread. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains this virus is NOT currently spreading widely in the United States, they also caution the potential health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high here in our country and globally.
The CDC has shared an updated risk assessment as follows:
- For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. For a one-page CDC fact sheet about COVID-19, click here.
- People in communities where ongoing community spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 – meaning people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected – are at elevated though still relatively low risk of exposure. For a list of these communities, click here.
- Healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19, close contacts of persons with COVID-19, and travelers returning from affected international locations where community spread is occurring are at elevated risk of exposure. More information for travelers is available here.
There are steps individuals and communities can take to help minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread:
- Practice everyday preventive actions such as:
- Performing frequent hand hygiene using hand sanitizer; or if visibly soiled, washing hands with soap and water,
- Covering your cough and sneezes,
- Avoiding ill people,
- Staying home when sick (except to seek medical care).
- Community- and faith-based organizations should review existing emergency operations plans, including strategies for social distancing and modifying large gatherings such as concerts and festivals. See the Chicago Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Guidance for Community- and Faith-based Organizations.
- Everyone can do their part to reduce spread of rumors. Let people know that viruses cannot target people from specific populations, ethnicities, or racial backgrounds. Being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading COVID-19.
- Help fight fear and stigma. Support people who are coming back to school or work after completing their quarantine or isolation period for COVID-19 exposure or illness.
For the latest information, visit the CDC website, which provides regularly updated information and the latest guidelines. The CDC has also compiled answers to frequently asked questions, and the Chicago Department of Public Health has created a tip sheet for individuals and households to help people protect themselves.
Our colleagues in the Wisconsin Council of Churches (WCC) have created an excellent resource for Christian congregations that emphasizes the call of our faith leaders to calm fear, disseminate accurate information, protect the most vulnerable and support each other in times of crisis. They also share suggestions to modify religious practices to help keep people safe while providing spiritual care and honoring important community traditions. See the resource here.
The WCC also will offer a webinar on Epidemic Preparedness for Faith-Based Organizations at 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, with Cheryl Skjolaas, University of Wisconsin Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, and National Chair of the Extension Disaster Education Network. Register here.
If you have questions, please reach out to me at [email protected].
Rev. Kirsten Peachey
Director, Faith and Health Partnerships
Advocate Aurora Health