Pastoral letter to the Eparchy of Sasktoon on COVID-19 Effective June 8

Ref. #   BB-20200601-01

June 1, 2020

 

To the Reverend Clergy, Members of Religious Orders and Faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon

 

My April 2, 2020 Pastoral letter said this:

As COVID-19 information is constantly updated, so must we continue to learn from our science and health communities about the virus, ways to self-check for symptoms and best practices. Likewise, we must continue to update ourselves regarding the spiritual impact of this pandemic and be revitalized about how to spiritually strengthen ourselves and others. We don’t have the comfort of adopting a spiritual routine and then leave it at that, such as reading a directive that may be days old and think it won’t be updated.  That is why I continue to meet, by Zoom and telephone, to bring to you the best practices and directives.  No one should make decisions in these days without consultation, for the Holy Spirit speaks through all of us.

 

May 23, 2020 update says:  I am pleased to say that I am proposing new options to proceed with in our churches given the fact that there is a learning curve that is outstanding in Saskatchewan in the public about preventing the spread of the COVID virus.

As always, I have checked with medical professionals to vet the new directions. . . . .

 

As of June 1, 2020:   The latest update from the Saskatchewan government is the following pulled down from the website on June 1, 2020. This is about educating faithful to interact with each other in a safe manner given this situation. REMEMBER: There is still no obligation for anyone to attend service in a church as a group or to receive communion. This is in place until the end of the pandemic.

 

https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/re-open-saskatchewan-plan/guidelines/places-of-worship-guidelines#

 

Places of Worship Guidelines

For general workplace guidelines, please refer to COVID-19 Workplace Information. All businesses operating in Saskatchewan must be in compliance with these guidelines. The information below provides specific information for places of worship.

The Government of Saskatchewan, in consultation with leaders from faith communities in the province, developed guidelines for places of worship to resume service. These guidelines apply to indoor and outdoor gatherings, except where more specific provincial guidance exists, such as the Drive-in or Remote Worship Services Guidelines. (or see appendix below.)

These initial guidelines are intended to support a return to in-person services for places of worship. Further guidelines will be forthcoming to address additional critical services, pastoral care and community supports provided by faith-based institutions in Saskatchewan. The initial guidelines are intended to allow places of worship that choose to return to service to do so safely and guard against the transmission of COVID-19.

Places of worship should only return to service once they are able to safely implement the controls identified in these guidelines.

 

1)   Guidelines for Accommodating Worship

  1. Effective June 8, 2020, places of worship may resume services providing social distancing of two metres can be maintained between each individual household. The allowable occupancy is one-third of the defined occupancy rate of the facility to a maximum of 30 individuals for the initial stage of re-opening.
  2. Delivering services virtually or through remote delivery such as drive-in service is encouraged.
  3. Where possible, registration of participants is encouraged to effectively manage the number of individuals attending. Registration should be facilitated to discourage attendees from common-use items such as pens and pencils. (It is suggested that slips of paper with names of those attending should be prepared when a household attends. Use the Health Authority Log found below. This could also be in an envelope with the offering. The list of names should be collected for the sake of tracking should there be an outbreak later).
  4. Attendees who are medically vulnerable are strongly encouraged to delay their return to services and continue to participate in services online, where possible.
  5. Attendees, employees and volunteers are required to stay home if sick or symptomatic.
  6. Places of worship will be required to identify measures by which entry and exit is managed to ensure physical distancing is maintained.
  7. Promote physical distancing by marking the directional flow of people through buildings and areas. Mark seating areas and post visual reminders to observe physical distancing.
  8. Individuals from the same household may be seated together and should remain in place once they are seated.
  9. Seating (or designated worship space) must be arranged so that physical distancing can be observed at all times. Consideration must be given to how people enter and exit pews and other seating areas. A minimum of two metres must be maintained between household groups.
  10. If multiple gatherings are held on a single day, the start and end times must allow those who attend one gathering to exit safely, avoiding contact with those arriving for the next gathering. Time is needed to clean and disinfect common surfaces between services.
  11. Dismissal of gatherings should be done in a way that supports physical distancing.
  12. All ancillary events, such as social events, should be postponed for the immediate future.
  13. Where possible, consider managing parking lot assignments to ensure physical distancing is maintained.

2. Guidelines for Hygiene and Cleaning

  • As part of the return to service, places of worship will be required to enhance cleaning and disinfection practices.
  • Reviewcleaning and disinfection practices(or see appendix below.)
  • Increase cleaning and disinfection of commonly contacted areas, including seating areas, doorknobs, handles, ceremonial objects, elevator buttons, railings and light switches.
  • Encourage everyone to practicing proper hand hygiene and coughing/sneezing etiquette, including:
    1. Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    2. Use hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty and handwashing isn’t available.
    3. Use hand sanitizer of least 70 per cent alcohol that is approved by Health Canada (DIN and NPN number).
    4. Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Manage access to washrooms in a way to promote social distancing and increase cleaning and disinfection. Ensure washrooms are always well stocked with liquid soap and paper towels, and that warm running water is available.
  • Garbage bins should be emptied frequently.
  • Place an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in dispensers or provide hand washing stations near doors and other high-traffic areas.

3. Guidelines for Higher-Risk Activities

  • All physical contact, such as handshaking or passing objects between individuals, is not permitted.Ushers, greeters or other guest services must maintain social distancing and avoid physical contact with worshippers.
  • Microphones cannot be shared between individuals due to the difficulty of cleaning and disinfecting these devices. Minimize the number of attendees providing readings or performing other activities that would require the use of a microphone.
  • Singing is a high-risk activity because the virus can be transmitted through saliva or respiratory droplets. One documented COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the spread of the virus to 87 per cent of choir attendees from one infected person. Therefore, singing is not recommended at this time.
  • Although not recommended, when singing, participants must wear masks.
  • The use of woodwind and brass instruments may also increase the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus due to the aerosolized respiratory fluids. As such, they are not recommended at this time.
  • Where leaders of services are required to sing, they must increase the distance between the congregation to prevent transmission of respiratory droplets and/or wear a mask.
  • Ceremonies or rituals that involve physical contact between individuals, such as the handling of the Torah scroll or baptism, should be modified to maintain physical distancing. Where physical distancing is not possible, participants will be required to mitigate the risk by wearing personal protective equipment and increased hand hygiene. (See below)
  • The celebration of communion raise specific challenges because of the possibility of inadvertently transmitting the virus. Faith communities centered on a communion ritual must exercise extreme caution if they wish to proceed with offering communion. Denominations or families of churches wishing to offer communion at this time will be required to develop protocols by which the communion can be offered in a way that safeguards the health of the communicants and celebrant. The use of a common cup is not permissible (as in RC usage).
  • When the service is a Divine Liturgy and Eucharist is received by the faithful, careful preparation for the consecrated hosts are as follows:
  • The priest will consecrate hosts with the covers on the entire time. The covers are removed only to distribute the host and then mingle the hosts that remain before taking them to the Proskemedinyk.
  • Communion will be distributed only at the end of the service so the communicant disinfects their place in the pew, communes and then leaves the church directly..
  • Distribution Option #1 Wearing a mask as much as possible.
    1. The priest will put the dry hosts in a dry chalice and use a disinfected spoon to distribute the hosts.
    2. The priest must wear a mask to distribute the hosts since he will be within 6 feet of the communicant at the moment of communion.
    3. Those receiving communion should wear a mask since they will be within 6 feet of the priest at the moment of communion.
    4. Dry communion with a spoon will be placed in the hand of the communicant while still wearing a mask. They will move away from the priest and then lower their mask to consume the host and finally raise their mask again as they leave the church.

 

  • Distribution Option #2 Wearing a mask as much as possible.
    1. COMMUNION WITH THE PRECIOUS BLOOD can be distributed if the parish has stainless steel spoons that are purchased strictly for communion only. They are not to be returned to a kitchen for secular use.
    2. A disinfected spoon is taken by the priest from a container (basket or tray with spoon handles on one end) and used to give the person communion as usual (into the communicant’s mouth, temporarily lowering or removing their mask), while the priest must wear a mask.
    3. If the communicant coughs or sneezes while near the chalice, that chalice is no longer allowed to be used for communion and it is to be purified as normally done. Another chalice of the precious gifts must be used to continue.
    4. The used spoon must be placed in a bowl that will be purified later with warm water and soap. The spoon must be rinsed over top of this bowl and then placed elsewhere for drying. Washing of hands with soapy water for 20 seconds is also disinfectant enough for the next use of the spoon. The bowl of water with remnants of the precious Body and Blood must be poured out into soil outside (not a flower pot) where no one walks such as where flowers are grown.
  • Children that need assistance from a parent or adult should be instructed by a parent about how to receive at this time. If they are too young to be trusted about the procedure, they should not receive communion at this time.
  • Passing of offering baskets will not be permitted. Alternatives are encouraged, such as online giving options or a depository to accept offerings upon entering the church.
  • Objects that cannot be disinfected between uses should not be distributed. If objects cannot be disinfected, the place of worship must determine the means by which they can be discarded after use to prevent contamination, such as paper bulletins or other single-use materials.
  • Books and other common-use items should be removed from use, if possible. Projecting materials or distribution of single-use materials can be considered. Books or items that can’t be disinfected should be removed and held for 72 hours before being brought back into use.
  • Food and beverage service must be suspended at this time.

 

In Christ,

 

Bishop Bryan Bayda, CSsR

Eparch of Saskatoon Eparchy

 

Drive-In or Remote Worship Guidelines

For general workplace guidelines, please refer to COVID-19 Workplace Information. All businesses operating in Saskatchewan must be in compliance with these guidelines. The information below provides specific information for places of worship offering drive-in or remote worship services.

  • Services may be delivered online (via Zoom, YouTube, etc.) as long as no more than 30 people are in the place of worship at one time and are strictly observing all social distancing guidelines (minimum two metres of space between people).
  • They may also be delivered as drive-in services, but individuals are encouraged to remain in their vehicles as much as possible. Only individuals from the same household may occupy the same vehicle.
  • Drive-in services must be held in designated parking lots or staging areas, and must meet the following conditions:
    • Event organizers must have measures in place to ensure people maintain two metres of separation if they need to leave their vehicles. However, attendees should be encouraged to remain in their vehicles.
    • Vehicles must be separated by a minimum of two metres.
    • Access to washroom facilities must be limited. Where washroom access is provided, frequent cleaning and disinfection must take place throughout the event.
    • People leaving their vehicles to use the washrooms must maintain a minimum of two metres of separation from others at all times.
    • No food or beverage service is allowed.
    • All other services must be suspended, including picnic and play areas.
    • Anyone who is feeling sick or symptomatic must remain at home.
    • Organizers must provide proposals for any events to local public health officials, as well as be available to answer any questions, to ensure the event does not pose a risk of spreading COVID-19.

 

Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Guidelines

What Do I Need To Know?

  • The COVID-19 virus can survive for several days on different surfaces and objects.
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection is important to prevent spread of the disease.
  • Many common household and commercial disinfectant products will destroy the COVID-19 virus.
  • Some disinfectants will have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN). These products are approved for use by Health Canada.
  • Household bleach (five per cent sodium hypochlorite) may not have a DIN, but may be used following the instructions below. 

What Do I Need To Do?

  • Clean often. Areas visited by people should be kept clean and free from clutter.
  • Commonly touched areas should be cleaned and disinfected twice daily or whenever visibly soiled. This includes light switches, door handles, toilets, taps, hand rails, counter tops, toys, touch screens/mobile devices and keyboards.
  • Clothing and fabric items should be laundered and dried on the highest temperature setting possible. Ensure items are thoroughly dried.

Is There a Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?

  • Cleaning products remove dirt, dust and oils, but don’t always kill germs.
  • Disinfectants are applied after cleaning to destroy germs.
  • Cleaning is required prior to disinfection to remove soil and ensure the effectiveness of disinfection (unless otherwise indicated by manufacturer).
  • Common disinfectants include bleach solutions, quaternary ammonium (QUAT), alcohol (70 per cent) and peroxide. Vinegar, tea tree oil solutions, etc. are not proven to be effective disinfectants.

How Do I Make a Disinfecting Solution?

  • Always read product labels and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Do not use expired products.
  • According to Health Canada, a disinfecting solution can be made by mixing one part of bleach into 50 parts of water. For example, 1 teaspoon (5 mL) bleach into 1 cup (250 mL) water. These directions are based on bleach that is 5 per cent sodium hypochlorite.
  • Do not mix soap or other cleaners into the bleach and water solution.
  • Apply the disinfecting solution using a spray bottle or a clean wiping cloth.
  • Always use appropriate PPE for working with bleach, including protective gloves.
  • Food contact surfaces should be rinsed with fresh water after disinfecting.
  • Toys that children may put in their mouths must be thoroughly rinsed after disinfection.
  • If using disinfectant wipes, the manufacturer’s recommended contact time (i.e. how long the surface remains wet) must be met. Disinfectant wipes are not recommended for heavily soiled surfaces.

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