New COVID Plan and Listening Sessions

Sunday Dec. 19th Listening Session 11:15

 Zoom link
Meeting ID: 881 4390 4581
Passcode: 526997
Call in by phone: 312-626-6799

Dear Friends,

The COVID-19 Task Force recognizes that many things have changed since the March 2020 outbreak of the virus, and even since the August revision to our Strategic Plan.  The risk of serious illness and death has been shown to significantly decrease with vaccination for many people, vaccinations are now available for all people over 5 years of age, and over 80% of the general population in the Madison Metro area have received at least one dose.  In addition, the severe restrictions of the original plan and the second version have made it very difficult to tend to the mental and spiritual health of our people.  The Task Force has created a new version of the Strategic Plan with the goals of minimizing risk and offering options, rather than our earlier vision of simply keeping our community members from spreading the virus.  And at the same time, we acknowledge that for some people, simply minimizing risk isn’t enough, and that we all need to make choices that are best for us.

Here it is! There’s a revised draft plan, and a new guidelines rubric.  Please keep reading to learn about them, and to find links to listening sessions about them.

In creating this version, the Task Force has adopted the language and practice of covenantal consent, which requires taking time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions that might marginalize some in the community, or even to put members of the community at risk, either physically or mentally.  As we make decisions that impact the community as a whole, we’re seeking to practice inclusion, covenant, consent, care for each other, and respect for science.  For example, this version of the Strategic Plan asks participants gathering in person for worship to wear consent stickers, which are color-coded based on a person’s comfort level with physical distancing and hugging.

The Task Force reviewed guidance from the CDCthe Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Association of UU Music Ministries, to inform this draft.  The UUA consults with public health professionals, and their most recent recommendations are:

  • For all indoor gatherings, regardless of size, vaccination status, or area transmission risk: Require good ventilation, well-fitted masks, physical distancing of at least 6 ft, reduced occupancy, no singing, and no food, nor drinks.
  • Require well-fitted masks for all large outdoor events, for any outdoor event where unvaccinated children or other vulnerable people are included, and for outdoor gatherings of any size in counties where transmission is Very High or Severe (per the COVID Act Now data).
  • Until children below age 12 [now below 5]can be vaccinated, hold religious education activities and multi-age programs outdoors. If [unvaccinated] children are indoors for any purpose (like using the restroom), ensure excellent ventilation, masking, physical distancing, and reduced room occupancy.
  • In areas where transmission risk is Very High or Severe, (per the COVID Act Now data), suspend all large, in-person (indoor and outdoor) gatherings such as worship, concerts, or fundraisers. In areas where transmission risk is Low, Medium, or High (per the COVID Act Now data), small and mid-size gatherings, including limited-attendance worship, may be reasonably safe if indoor precautions for masking, ventilation, physical distancing and high vaccination rates are followed.
  • Create an expectation that vaccinations are required for everyone who is eligible. Work to have the highest vaccination rate possible in your community. We support requiring vaccinations for staff, lay leaders, and anyone spending time with children.

This version of the Strategic Plan does not follow UUA recommendations completely, because we’re compiling guidance from the other sources listed above.

Because of the Task Force’s shift in focus for this version of the Strategic Plan, there are both similarities and differences when it’s compared to the original and second versions.

What’s the same?

  • We’re still using the Covid ActNow website to guide our risk categories.
  • There is still a set of conditions in which our building is closed.  We’re still offering the building for emergency community support even when the building is closed.
  • We’re still masking and distancing for most gatherings.  Guidance from the Unitarian Universalist Association reminds us to make decisions about masking based on community.  We are in covenant with one another to act not just as a collection of individuals, but as a body that works for the good of all.  Because our Unitarian Universalist faith is grounded in values that call us to care about one another, we must continue to make our decisions by centering the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

What’s different?

  • This version is based on the Covid ActNow metrics for Madison Metro, while the previous version was based on Dane County metrics.
  • This version is based only on the daily new cases metric, while the previous version was also based on the infection and positive test rates.
  • We’ve renamed the “Levels of Concern” to “Risk Categories” to reflect our shift to a focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do.
  • In each risk category, we’ve broken up Worship and Congregational Life into separate sections, and added a section specifically for Choir Practices.
  • There are some situations in which groups may choose to mask OR distance rather than having to do both.
  • The building is only closed if the daily new cases metric for Madison Metro puts us in the severe risk category (75+ new cases /100k).  Under the previous version, the building was closed if we were in the very high (25-75 new cases /100k) or high (10-25 new cases /100k) risk categories.  That means that, at today’s risk category (very high), we can offer multiplatform worship indoors with a limited number of participants in the sanctuary, that our OWL group and other small groups can meet in the building, and that the choir can rehearse and record indoors.

That’s a lot of information!  Like the previous versions, the Strategic Plan is long and detailed.  For better accessibility, we’re introducing a guidelines rubric that offers an “at-a-glance” view of activities and options at the current risk category.  The rubric will be posted on our website and linked in our weekly email, and updated a week after we move to a lower risk category and immediately if we move to a higher risk category.

So here it is: the draft plan, and the guidelines rubric.  We invite you to review them, and then – because this process should be collaborative and we want your feedback, questions, concerns, and suggestions – come talk with us at two listening sessions:

Tuesday, December 14 at 7:00 pm, facilitated by Elliott Flowers (with Deb Myrbo, Board Liaison to the Task Force, taking notes)

Sunday, December 19 at 11:15 pm, facilitated by Jocie Luglio and Mary Pitassi (with Rev. Karen taking notes)

Zoom links are available in your email with this same message and will be available on this site the day of each session.

If you can’t attend either of these sessions, please feel free to contact Elliott FlowersJocie Luglio, or Rev. Karen with your thoughts.

We are planning for a future where we have both online and in-person programs, including worship.  We are planning for a future when we can hug – if both people want.  Where we can see each other’s faces, hear each other’s voices, and be in each other’s presence – and where robust online options, safety measures, and other steps keep everyone connected and safe.  This is collaborative work – thanks to all of you for your input!

We offer deep gratitude to all the folx who have been part of the Task Force since its inception in June of 2020, and have since rotated off: Sarah Cook, Doug Erickson, Kirsten Johnson, and Thomas Lund – and to former Board President Bev Buhr for the foresight and wisdom to know that a group like this would be necessary!

From your current C-19 Task Force,

Elliott Flowers, Jocie Luglio, brand new member Mary Pitassi, and Rev. Karen

Reeb & COVID-19 Page