Oak Hill United Methodist Church COVID Update July 21, 2021

Dear Oak Hill UMC,

As cases of COVID-19 have risen sharply in the last few weeks, our Responsible Return Team has listened to the guidance of public health officials.  Starting this Sunday, July 25th, we will make the following changes to our COVID safety protocols:

Out of Christian love for those who are not yet vaccinated and in accordance with recommendations of Austin public health officials:
— We highly encourage everyone to wear a masks when gathered indoors with others
— All worship leaders, including the pastors, musicians, and staff will wear masks in the sanctuary
— Everyone working with children and youth will wear masks when gathered indoors
— We will not require anyone to wear a mask indoors who chooses not to do so. 

When we decided to make masks optional on July 4th, we knew that we may have to reverse course at some point. We hope that encouraging everyone to wear masks indoors and requiring them of our worship leaders will slow the spread of the virus and reduce need for further restrictions.

Let’s live into Jesus’ call to act in love by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.

If you have not yet been vaccinated, we encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as possible. There are lots of places to get a free vaccine. To find a vaccine location near you, visit www.vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) in English or VACUNA (822862) in Spanish, or call 833-832-7067 for a referral to a local vaccine provider.


STAGE 1
Outdoors Only
Limited Outdoor Activity & Gatherings; Social Bubbling

COVID test positivity rate > 10 % (7 day running average)


New hospitalizations > 25 /week (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • • All buildings closed except for staff conducting essential work on campus with masks, hygiene & separation

  • • Sanctuary closed except for Worship team / Livestreaming

  • • Other access to and use of buildings on case-by-case basis approved by Senior Pastor on advice from Trustees

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • In-person gatherings of 10 or fewer individuals permitted on campus (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene)

  • • Labyrinth and outdoor chapel usage available for groups of 10 or fewer with masks, separation & hygiene

  • • Parking lot available for tailgates - distanced gatherings of groups up to 10 by reservation (up to 5 of these groups in separate areas of the parking lot)

  • • Playground closed

OTHER:

  • • Distancing, masks & hygiene required
  • • High-risk people stay home

  • • Encourage/enable small groups meet via video conference (Church Zoom Account)

  • • In-person gatherings of 10 or fewer individuals (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene )

  • • Committees meet via video conference or in-person outdoors in small groups

  • • Continue ministries as appropriate, with size/location restrictions

  • • Social Bubbling - Patio / porch / back yard groups:
    1. Pastor joining groups for communion
    2. Watch Live Stream services together

  • • No Sunday School on campus

  • • No Children’s SS on campus

  • • No Childcare on campus

  • • No PreSchool

STAGE 2
Limited Access to Campus
Limited Gatherings

COVID test positivity rate <10 % (7-day running average)


New hospitalizations < 25 / week (7-day running average)

BUILDINGS:

  • • Worship in the sanctuary open for 75 or fewer individuals other than the Worship/Tech team

  • • Sanctuary open for prayer and meditation for individuals and groups of 25 or fewer (Please clean after yourselves – supplies provided)

    1. No congregational or choral singing
    2. Non-wind instruments permitted
    3. Soloists or small ensembles for singing or single wind instruments with distancing

  • • Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, and Children’s Building Great Room available for groups of 25 or fewer individuals

  • • Other access to and use of buildings on case-by-case basis approved by Senior Pastor on advice from Trustees

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • Labyrinth and Outdoor chapel usage available for groups of 25 or fewer with masks, separation & hygiene

  • • Parking lot available for tailgates - distanced gatherings of groups up to 25 by reservation (up to 5 of these groups in separate areas of the parking lot)

  • • Playground available for 10 or fewer individuals

  • • Outdoor gatherings of more than 25 with masks/distancing allowed for special services at discretion of pastors

OTHER:

  • • Distancing, masks & hygiene required

  • • High Risk and 65+ individuals should take special precautions.

  • • Encourage/enable small groups meet via video conference (Church Zoom Account)

  • • In-person gatherings of 25 or fewer individuals (outdoors with masks, separation & hygiene )

  • • Committees meet via video conference or in-person outdoors in small groups

  • • Continue ministries as appropriate with size/location restrictions

  • • Social Bubbling - Patio / porch / back yard groups:
    1. Pastor joining groups for communion
    2. Watch Live Stream services together

  • • No Sunday School on campus

  • • No Children’s SS on campus

  • • No Childcare on campus

  • • No PreSchool

STAGE 3
Substantial Return
Limited Gatherings

COVID test positivity rate < 5 % (7-day running average)


COVID new hospitalizations < 15 for previous week (7-day running average)


Vaccinations generally available for high-risk individuals


Restrictions may be relaxed further as circumstances develop over the next months. Announcements will be made as appropriate.

BUILDINGS:
Worship services in the sanctuary open to all without reservations (100 person limit). Masks required:

  1. Congregational or choral singing allowed with mask
  2. Non-wind instruments permitted
  3. Soloists or small ensembles for singing or single wind instruments with distancing
  • • In addition to wearing masks, unvaccinated people should practice social distancing while indoors.

  • • Sanctuary open for prayer and meditation. Masks required.

  • • Sanctuary, Fellowship Hall, and Children’s Building Great Room open to all. Masks required

OUTDOOR AREAS:

  • • No masks required outdoors. Unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks outside.

  • • Labyrinth, outdoor chapel and playground open. No masks required.

  • • Parking lot available for tailgates. No masks required.

OTHER:

  • • Unvaccinated people should continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing

  • • Small groups and committees may meet in person

  • • Indoor Sunday School classes limited to 25 people
  • • If meeting indoors, masks required
  • • If meeting outdoors, no masks required.

  • Children’s SS discretion of staff

  • Childcare at discretion of staff

  • Pre School TBD (Note: Anticipate Pre-school reopening in August or September.)
  • High Risk and 65+ individuals should take special precautions during all stages.

    PROCEDURE FOR CHANGING STAGES

    To provide guidance and transparency, the Responsible Return Team identified the 7-day Moving Average of New Hospitalizations, as provided by the City of Austin Health Department, as a valid metric to help determine when a move from a more restrictive stage, or to a less restrictive stage, should occur. The baseline metrics are shown for each stage of the return plan.

    We will monitor the metrics weekly and decide whether a change is necessary and advisable. We will announce any changes via social media, the Cornerstone and Sunday morning announcements.

    Because much is still unknown about COVID-19, these metrics are only guidelines that, combined with other sources of information, will be used by the Responsible Return Team to make any final decisions.

    OUR 4 DRIVING VALUES

    The decision on how and when to resume in-person ministries at Oak Hill was driven by the following 4 values:

    SAFETY

    Our number one priority in developing this reopening plan was a desire to keep everyone safe. This value is driven by one of John Wesley's “Three Simple Rules," the rule to do no harm.

    COMMUNITY

    Our plan was also driven by a desire to identify ways to gather together, to visit with one another and to nurture Christian community in safe, responsible ways.

    MISSION

    Mission work is important to Oak Hill and we wanted to ensure that we can continue caring for people in our community during this crisis. It therefore was important for us to identify safe ways for us to engage in mission.

    FAITH FORMATION

    The 4th value driving this plan was a desire to provide safe, responsible ways for us to gather together to nurture our faith and grow in our spiritual journey.

    CONTACT US

    If you have questions or concerns about our return to church plan, please send us a message using the form below. We will try to respond to your message in a timely manner.