Coronavirus

UPDATED MARCH 24, 2021

Changes to IGRC COVID-19 Precautions

As we continue to see lower risk for COVID-19 across the State of Illinois, the Illinois Great Rivers Conference is adjusting its safety recommendations to keep in pace with the recommendations from the Illinois Department of Public Health. You can read the entirety of the IDPH’s updated recommendations at www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19 and the full text of our IGRC recommendation document “Pressing On” located lower on this page.

In summary, the changes to Phase 4 allow for up to 50 people to gather in most of our churches. In churches with room capacity larger than 200 people, they may gather up to 25% of room capacity. This removes the previous upper limit of 100 people. Additionally, fully vaccinated people will not count against gathering size limits. 

A person is fully vaccinated when it has been at least 14 days since they received the final dose of vaccination. Churches may gather vaccination information by allowing for participants to voluntarily disclose whether they are fully vaccinated on the church reservation or sign-up log being kept for contract tracing. At no time should church leaders demand information about vaccination status (or any other protected health information), request vaccination cards be shown on admittance, or pressure participants in any way to show proof of vaccination. When in doubt our churches should continue to plan their gatherings as if participants are unvaccinated. The IGRC continues to recommend that churches should avoid creating special events, gatherings, or worship experiences only available to those who are already fully vaccinated. Our ministries are meant for all, and we need to be diligent in ensuring that an individual’s access to vaccination does not become a barrier for people’s full participation in the life of our churches.

The IDPH has created a new “Bridge” Phase to help ease the transition from Phase 4 to Phase 5 and has added some updates to Phase 5 which are reflected in the summary chart below. Please continue to witness to the love of Christ by keeping your congregation and community as safe as possible during this pandemic. If you have questions, please visit this page, contact your District Superintendent, or reach out to our Director of Connectional Ministry Curtis Brown at cbrown@igrc.org

For the detailed metrics, visit: Restore Illinois Regional Dashboard

COVID-19 Precautions Update

With the ongoing decrease in transmissions and cases of COVID-19, the Illinois Great Rivers Extended Cabinet has updated it safety guidance document “Pressing On” found on this page. Our United Methodist churches and pastors have been exemplary leaders and have directly contributed to keeping their congregations and communities safer during this pandemic. Their leadership has enable these changes.

Congregational Singing

When meeting indoors congregations and choirs may cautiously join in singing of hymns, praise songs, or other congregational music if they are wearing well-fitted and high-quality masks, keeping 10 feet between people from different households, taking good care to wash their hands, carefully keeping contact logs, and ensuring excellent fresh-air ventilation and air circulation throughout the room. Worship and music leaders may continue to provide sung music if they are located 25 feet or more from the congregation, are well-masked, and/or are located behind plexiglass or some other shield. Congregations should continue to take care as singing can have a high risk of spreading water droplets which can carry the virus a significant distance and can potentially keep the virus suspended in the air for quite a long time. An ill-fitted cloth mask may not be enough to protect you or your neighbor even as you practice appropriate physical distancing, so a well-fitted, medical quality (N95 or KN95) mask is preferable. Despite its dangers, some congregations may continue to practice group singing without appropriate precautions. If this occurs, church leaders should do whatever they can to make it as safe as possible, including wearing some kind of mask, further increasing distance between people, limiting the number and duration of songs, limiting the number of singers, placing songs near the end of worship, and explicitly warning high-risk people that they may have a higher risk of viral exposure during the congregation’s gatherings.

Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People

As an increasing number of people are receiving vaccinations against COVID-19, churches should continue to exercise diligence in helping to keep their congregations and communities as safe as possible. These principles may help local church health safety leaders in making decisions about how to safely conduct their ministries:

  1. Vaccinations are relatively safe and effective. The United Methodist Church has a long history of supporting vaccines and other preventative healthcare to fight deadly diseases. The leaders of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference encourage all members of our churches to discuss receiving the COVID-19 vaccines with their primary healthcare provider and to receive the vaccine if appropriate.
  2. Churches should support and encourage the work of community and public health workers in distributing vaccines in an equitable and just manner. Local church leaders may want to contact their local public health officials to see how they can assist with hosting vaccination clinics, supporting public awareness efforts, or supporting at-risk populations with registrations and medical appointment-making. Before hosting any healthcare-related event, local churches should contact their insurance provider and follow their guidance.
  3. The IGRC recommends that churches should avoid creating special events, gatherings, or worship experiences only available to those who are already fully vaccinated. Our ministries are meant for all, and we need to be diligent in ensuring that an individual’s access to vaccination does not become a barrier for people’s full participation in the life of our churches.

A fully vaccinated person is someone who is two weeks past receiving a full dose of vaccines (either both injections of the two-shot course of vaccination or the single-shot vaccination). Although fully vaccinated people have significantly lowered their risk of getting ill from COVID-19, there is still risk for unvaccinated people in group gatherings and activities such as church ministries. The Centers for Disease Control says that fully vaccinated people may safely:

  • Visit other vaccinated people indoors without masks or physical distancing
  • Visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household without masks or physical distancing, if the unvaccinated people are at low risk for severe disease (such as younger children or those without complicated health concerns)
  • Skip quarantine and testing if exposed to someone who has Covid-19 but are asymptomatic, but should monitor for symptoms for 14 days

However, people who are fully vaccinated still need to take precautions in group settings, such as many church gatherings. The guidelines say fully vaccinated people should:

  • Wear a mask and keep good physical distance around unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe Covid-19, or if the unvaccinated person has a household member who is at higher risk (such as those over the age of 65 or those with complicating health conditions)
  • Wear masks and physically distance when visiting unvaccinated people who are from multiple households, such as a church gathering

In addition, fully vaccinated people should continue basic safety precautions, such as:

  • wearing a mask that fits well and keeping physical distance in public
  • avoiding medium- and large-sized crowds
  • avoiding poorly ventilated public spaces
  • washing hands frequently
  • getting tested for Covid-19 if they feel sick.

Vaccinations for clergy in Illinois

Starting March 29, all Illinois religious leaders, including all of our IGRC pastors and clergy, will be eligible to sign-up with their local public health departments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the IDPH Vaccination Plan...

Download Pressing On - Guidelines for Mitigation Phases (Updated March 24, 2021)

 

Church Guidance for Illinois Public Health Phases

Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church

The Restore Illinois plan provides for the State of Illinois to be divided into four public health regions, which will be assessed for risk of COVID-19 deaths based on five phases. This is a summary of the detailed guidance available for Illinois Great Rivers United Methodist Churches on applicable safety guidance for each phase.

Phase 1: RAPID SPREAD

  • Churches should not gather for in person weekly worship
  • Funerals and Weddings should be less than 10 people
  • Church buildings closed, except for essential and minimum basic operations.

Phase 2: FLATTENING

  • Same as Phase 1
  • Churches may gather for Drive In worship services

Phase 3: RECOVERY

  • Churches may gather for any purpose in groups of less than 10
  • Churches may gather out of doors with proper distancing
  • Children’s ministry programs should not be held
  • Social distancing, face masks, and other precautions should be taken
  • Churches should not practice group singing
  • Church buildings may reopen to small groups, and all church staff and volunteers can return to using the building.
  • People at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 should not gather in groups of any size.

Phase 4: REVITALIZATION

  • Churches may gather for any purpose in groups of less than 50
  • Churches, with larger rooms may gather indoor groups of up to 25% of the room capacity, but may not exceed 100 people in total. Beginning July 12, 2020, churches may exceed the 100 attendees limit at a limit of 25 percent of room capacity if they have a local church-approved comprehensive safety plan that outlines their procedures for appropriate social distancing, cleaning, contacct logging and education of the congregation
  • Check to ensure insurance coverage is adequate for the local church-approved safety plan
  • Children’s ministry programs may resume, cautiously.
  • Continue social distancing practices and other precautions

Phase 5: ILLINOIS RESTORED

  • Churches may gather in unlimited size groups for any purpose
  • All public health safety guidance is lifted
  • It is now safer for people of higher risk of dying from COVID-19 to gather

To read the entire document, use the download link below or select the menu item to the right, "Coming Back to the Heart of Worship" and its secondary pages underneath it.

God Bless

Bishop Frank J. Beard

Download the Entire Plan Document (v.3.2, 9/5/20, 19 pp, PDF)

Download Guidelines for Drive-In Worship