Coronavirus Impacts Winterfest
MARCH 12, 2020
Cleveland, TN: The Youth and Discipleship Department and the Church of God leadership has been informed this morning that the University of Tennessee/Knoxville has cancelled the use of the venue where Smoky Mountain Winterfest was scheduled to be held this weekend (March 13-15). Because of this action, Dr. Timothy M. Hill, General Overseer of the Church of God, issued the following statement:
“Although we have been monitoring the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak across the country, and have had multiple conversations concerning whether or not the Smoky Mountain Winterfest should proceed, our decision to proceed with Winterfest earlier was based upon information that we received from health officials, governmental officials, and the management at Thompson Boling Arena. However, a different decision was made for us this morning when the University of Tennessee/Knoxville decided to cancel all activities on campus this weekend. In addition, UTK has cancelled all activities on campus for the next several weeks in hopes of stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
While we know this decision by UT officials was difficult and came after a lot of discussion and thought, we are supportive of their efforts to protect their campus, as well as our young people and leaders. We all are disappointed that Smoky Mountain Winterfest will not be held this weekend. However, this cancellation was beyond our control.
As I have stated earlier, all future scheduled events will be considered on a case-by-case basis as we approach the date for each event. Again, I request that our church family be in prayer for a quick solution to this pandemic.“
The University of Tennessee/Knoxville statement that was issued earlier today is as follows:
Although there is not a confirmed case of the coronavirus disease on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Winterfest. We made this decision in order to protect our campus community and individuals most vulnerable to COVID-19. Our leadership team did everything we could to move forward and worked with organizers through the night to save the event. Due to recommendations coming out of Washington D.C., the Centers for Disease Control, and several other large events across the country being called off, we felt it was in the best interest of everyone to cancel. We know this annual event is enjoyed by thousands each year. We look forward to hosting once again in 2021.
While there are no clear answers currently, all questions regarding refunds and other similar matters will be handled by the Youth and Discipleship Department.
Tenn. Gov. Lee announces ‘emergency declaration’ to help fight COVID-19
Lee’s executive order declares a “state of emergency” and includes the following provisions:
- Gives state health commissioner power to allow licensed health professionals from other states to practice medicine in Tennessee without having to pursue a state license
- Allows pharmacists to dispense an extra 30-day supply of maintenance prescriptions without prior authorization
- Permits health care workers to provide “localized treatment of patients in temporary residences” without having to be licensed specifically to provide home health services
- Clears way for alternative testing sites without having to get approval from the state Medical Laboratory Board.
- Allows construction of temporary medical facilities without state approval
- Declares that an “abnormal economic disruption exists” and prohibits price gouging for medical or emergency supplies
- Relaxes trucking rules to allow larger deliveries of emergency and medical supplies and to allow truckers to exceed the maximum hours on the road for such deliveries
- Allows the human services commissioner to waive child care licensure rules as necessary to respond to the C0VID-19 emergency
- Gives TennCare the authority to create or modify policies to ensure that recipients receive medically necessary services without disruption
- Directs the state Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Insurance to work with insurance companies to “identify and remove any burdens to responding to COVID-19” and improve access to screening, testing and treatment
As we hear more and more news reports, I wanted to once again reach out to our church family and let you know that we are continuously monitoring the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Since the World Health Organization has today classified the outbreak as pandemic, church leadership has been considering the impact of the virus on our church family, particularly in regards to large church events and upcoming church services.
In addition to large church events, our churches will be holding their regularly scheduled services this weekend and I am encouraging each local church to take precautions to prevent the possible spread of this disease. The Center for Disease Control has issued some very specific guidelines and suggestions about precautions to keep people healthy. Those guidelines can be found by clicking or tapping HERE.
Towards that end, the Executive Committee is in almost continuous discussion as new information is received and we will act quickly if the situation merits such.
While we need to take every precaution to protect our church attenders, our employees, and ourselves, I do not believe that we have to live in fear. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures teach us that we are not to have a spirit of fear. So, once again, I ask that you join me in prayer for our nation and our world that God would bring healing. I also pray that our church family will be a lighthouse and refuge to those families who are suffering from the impact of the virus.
May God bless you in the fulfillment of your ministry.
CDC’s recommendations for preventing COVID-19 in faith-based communities.
If I was a pastor, there are a few things I would implement immediately.
- First and foremost, if you do not feel well, please do not come to church. New research shows that COVID-19 can travel 4.5 meters (15 feet) by cough and stay suspended in the air for up to 30 minutes (source). The dry cough is the most common symptom of COVID-19 with fewer than half of the infected getting a fever or having trouble breathing. This means COVID-19 can feel like a very mild cold, and we have been conditioned to go about our normal routines when we have a very mild cold. It is common to have policies in church nurseries and children’s church that you should not bring your child to class if they have had a fever or vomited in the past 24 hours to prevent the spread of illness, but it is also common to guilt those who do not come to church with what we consider to be a mild illness. Until COVID-19 dies down, we have to take mild coughs very seriously because the death rate for those who catch COVID-19 is somewhere between 1% and 5% with many epidemiologists reporting that they believe it is 3.5%. Going to church if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 when the death rate is 3.5% is simply unacceptable. People need to understand that it is “okay” to miss church for two weeks if they show symptoms and that they are actually expected to stay home if they show even mild symptoms.
- Greet each other with a holy wave for the next couple of months. Holy kisses and the right hand of fellowship are currently unnecessary risks. The point of greeting through contact is to express love and unity, but spreading a life-threatening virus is not an act of either. The pastor must also follow this advice.
- Print these WHO instructions for how to properly wash hands and post them in all bathrooms.
- Provide hand sanitizer at doorways, and print and post this “how to rub hands for hand hygiene” poster near them.
- Request during the announcements of every service that congregants cover their coughs and sneezes and wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds each time they visit the restroom, and invite congregants to take advantage of the provided hand sanitizer.
- Encourage those who can to give electronically as banknotes are one of the ways this virus is circulating. For those who wish to give physically, do not pass plates. Instead, allow givers to bring the money to the plates at the altar or else place plates near the exits to give on the way out. Provide latex gloves for the ushers who will be handling the banknotes and checks.
- Either postpone communion or change communion distribution policies. If distributed by an usher (most common in the churches I have attended), the ushers must have washed their hands immediately prior to serving communion in accordance with the WHO document above. Ushers should serve the body by dropping it into the hand of the recipient who can be instructed to cup his hand to receive the body as many mainline churches do. The recipient should then receive an individual cup in his or her flat palm. The distributors should not touch the hand of the recipient. Any distributor who inadvertently touches the hand of a recipient should immediately stop distributing and allow the other ushers to complete the service. It may be wise to have “extra” ushers for if this happens.
- When giving an altar call, altar workers should find a place away from the face (including forehead) or upper arms of a person to lay on hands. Touching a person’s face can infect them with the virus or pick up the virus and transmit it to the next person who is prayed for. Many people are coughing and sneezing into their elbows or upper sleeves, so avoiding those areas will help keep the altar worker from becoming infected. When praying as an altar worker, point your face away from the person you are praying for so that you don’t aerosolize the virus into their face. It is preferable to point your mouth toward the ground during the laying on of hands.
- Sanitize all major “touchpoints” after each service. This includes all door handles, coffee bar tabletops, visitor center tabletops, soundboard knobs, piano keys, microphone surfaces, etc. Prop open doors when suitable so fewer people touch them in the first place. The length of time the virus survives on a surface depends on factors such as temperature and the type of surface—for example at around 98F, it can survive for two to three days on glass, fabric, metal, plastic or paper—so sanitizing after each service is a good idea.
- Use a system that allows fewer “switches” of microphones. For example, use color-coded microphone windscreens, electrical tape, or other markers to identify microphones and then ensure that each microphone is assigned to a single person between sanitizations.