Considerations When Creating A Plan To Reopen

At the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, we fundamentally recognize our diversity as our greatest strength and as faith communities either prepare to cautiously open up faith sanctuaries for in-person gatherings or remain closed, we wanted to present some common considerations faith communites are employing to strategically and safely resume in-person gathering. Compiled from the data are some considerations made available by the CDC, WHO, Medical Providers, Governmental Agencies, Interfaith religious organizations, community coalitions, and the congregations themselves while also considering the sensitivity and the diversity of faith practices. Your faith community and leadership will best be able to assess your particular communities needs in considering diversity of faith scriptures, regionality of community, locality of building, physical space of the building itself, denomination size, age of congregants, and cultural practices to best imform your decison.

Not everyone will choose to reopen now. The decision to either remain closed or open even partial in-person worship is not an easy one and should be re-evaluated by taking into account the most recent medical science and data availble, while considering the safety and health of the community as the main priority. This an ever-evolving document and as we gather more information we will continually update this resource page. COVID-19 continues to be very contageous with a much higher mortality rate than the common flu, especially for people of color, those with pre-existing conditions, and the elderly.   

Preparing a plan to cautiously open or remain closed

  • There are numerous plans that have or are currently being coordinated for faith facilities. We will attach links to these plans that have been developed in collaboration with health care providers, public health professionals, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and trusted partners. 
  • The plan should consider federal, State, and Local guidelines. Currently in the City of Milwaukee the stay at home order is still in place, and in Milwaukee County, the 18 municipalities COVID-19 follows the Public Health Plan for Suburban Milwaukee County. Some regions still have ‘safer at home orders,’ and you should consider the level of threat before even partially opening doors.  
  • The Badger Bounce Back Plan and Utilizing the Phased approach to mitigating risk is strongly urged. 
  • Preemptively communicating the faith site plan with the congregation and allowing input will create a culture of trust and make it easier to enforce the expectations later on. Reinforce the need to cautiously open in a phased approach, rather than all at once. Social distancing, wearing PPE, sanitizing, and disinfecting are recommendations no matter the site or locality. Community mitigation framework by CDC
  • The plan is not set in stone. Best practices in stopping the spread of Novel Coronavirus continue to evolve and as we learn more, we should incorporate these changes into the plan.

Prepare your worship site

  • Because flow is going to be important for social distancing, decide which entrance and exit to utilize in order to maintain physical distance between people. Some locations will not be able to have a separate entrance and separate exit and in this case, reinforce the need for your congregants to keep their space from one another when entering and exiting. 
  • Clean the site to ensure disinfecting of common use areas such as the bathrooms, hallways, worship hall, kitchen area, food consumption area, children’s area, basically everywhere. This is a contagious virus and can live on saliva droplets for days. It will be extremely important to maintain cleanliness and sanitize with disinfectants. CDC Guide to cleaning
  • Encourage use of a cloth face covering at all gatherings and when in the building by everyone except children aged less than 2 years old. (Not using a cloth face covering may also be appropriate at times for some individuals who have trouble breathing or need assistance to remove their mask.)
  • Consider posting signs on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 and promote everyday protective measures. Having signage at the entrance and common use areas convey the need to be vigilant.
  • Have adequate hygiene supplies, such as soap, tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol).  

Promoting physical distancing

  • Limit the size of gatherings in accordance with the guidance and directives of state and local authorities. Currently in the City of Milwaukeethe stay at home order is still in place, and in Milwaukee County, the 18 municipalities COVID-19 follows the Public Health Plan for Suburban Milwaukee County.
  • If possible, add additional services to daily and weekly schedules to maintain social distancing at each service. Having smaller gathering with less people while sitting or standing apart from one another may not be optimal but for now it is encouraged to promote physical distancing. You should clean after each service.
  • Space out the seating for attendees who do not live in the same household to at least six feet apart when possible.
  • Express the need for families to exercise responsibility in maintaining a cluster of their own family only while inside the faith facility.
  • Limit the number of volunteers and request the volunteers to also maintain physical distancing between each other as they help perform some of the duties of service.
  • Consider temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects, this can include head coverings, foot sandals worn inside the faith facility, prayer books, pamphlets, napkins, silverware, dishes, glasses, plates, collection trays, food, etc. 
  • If food is offered at any event, have pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee whenever possible, instead of a buffet or family-style meal.
  • Avoid food and drink offerings. Do not share common glasses nor dishes.
  • Train all clergy and staff in the above safety actions. Consider conducting the training virtually, or, if in-person, ensure that social distancing is maintained. 
  • Preparing the congregation, communicating the plan, and constantly monitoring will be extremely important to ensure safety of the faith community.  

Monitoring for safety

  • Encourage all members who are sick, or may even think that they have been in contact with someone who is at risk of having COVID-19 to stay at home. Always express to caution on the side of safety to not put undue risk. 
  • Any member who may feel sick, display some of the symptomology, or feel like they have been at risk of contracting COVID-19, your faith facility should request their entire family and those that they have been surrounded with to also stay at home, be tested, and monitor their conditions.
  • Free COVID-19 Testing Sites

On Monday, two free Covid-19 testing sites opened in Milwaukee.  The locations are, Midtown Center on 5760 W. Capitol Dr. and UMOS, Inc. on 2701 S. Chase Ave. Both sites are open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.  No appointment or pre-registration is necessary.  

Another free drive-through testing location provided by Pick ’n Save (The Kroeger Co.) will open on May 14th at 1001 Vel R. Phillips Ave. in downtown Milwaukee. Tests will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, then May 18-21 and May 26-29. Community members can register for the tests online. Eligibility will be established using a virtual screening tool that is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plus recommendations from state and local government.

The Walgreens at 620 W. Oklahoma Ave. in Milwaukee is also offering free drive-thru Covid-19 testing.
You must first complete a questionnaire online before going into the store. Drive Thru COVID-19 testing.

  • Have greeters who can help identify those that may feel sick.
  • Establish sensitive procedures for denial of entry for those who present risk and procedure for safely transporting anyone who becomes sick at the facility to their home or a health-care facility.
  • Notify those that have been in contact with those who present risk and ask them to also take proper precautions.
  • Inform those whom have had exposure or at high risk for exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 to stay home and self-monitor for symptoms, and follow CDC guidance if COVID-19 symptomology develops.
  • Encourage parents to continuously supervise their children the entire time they are attending services.
  • Close off areas used by the sick person and do not use the area until it after cleaning and disinfection; wait 24 hours to clean and disinfect to reduce risk to individuals cleaning. If it is not possible to wait 24 hours, wait as long as possible before cleaning and disinfecting. Keep these products away from children.
  • Advise sick staff and congregants not to return to the facility until they have met the CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation.

Continuously Reassessing 

  • The news around COVID-19 is continuously evolving. It is extremely important that we adhere to CDC, WHO, State, and Federal guidelines and conditionally utilize trusted information to guide our faith communities’ best practices. 
  • There are numerous faith sites who will not be opening by June 1, 2020 and there are sites who have committed to be closed all of 2020 and not open up until the New Year. As trusted leaders, you must understand your congregation and their needs and vulnerabilities. The elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions should be encouraged to take extra precaution during these times. 
  • In the event that a person diagnosed with COVID-19 has been in the building and poses a risk to the community, it is strongly suggested to close, then properly clean and disinfect the area and the building where the individual was present.