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Michigan Conference alert on COVID-19

Handwashing helps from spreading coronavirus

As Michigan’s Governor, Gretchen Whitmer takes precautions to slow the spread of  COVID-19 (coronavirus), the Michigan Conference provides these action steps to partner with public health efforts.

March 11, 2020 | LANSING, Michigan — As of late Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer have reported that two persons have tested positive for COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus. In Michigan, 77 people have been tested; of these, 57 tested negative, and 18 tests remain pending.  According to media reports, an additional 493 people have been referred to state and local agencies for assessment or monitoring. 

Amid this rapidly changing situation, Bishop David Bard has called for prayer, calm, and formed a response team to offer recommendations on how Michigan United Methodist Churches can respond to this evolving crisis.  

In the meantime, local churches can put into action these common-sense measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases:

  • Pray for all those affected by COVID-19, including the health professionals working to contain the virus and treat to those impacted.
  • Organize a local church response team to monitor, plan, communicate, manage finances, and increase church hygiene.
  • Because the virus spreads through close proximity, ask anyone who is sick to stay at home.  Communicate to church members that anyone with a fever or coughing should not attend church services.
  • Ask church members that are more vulnerable (older and/or with pre-existing health conditions) to limit or stop attending church events.  Make sure these persons inform the church of their decision to stay at home so they can be tracked.
  • Discuss how you can minister to and safely check on the well-being of impacted members.  Use telephone or other electronic means. Discuss how you might safely support those needing to shelter in place with food and other necessities.
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Offer hand sanitizer stations that contain at least 60% alcohol and encourage regular use.
  • Refrain from shaking hands and offering hugs. Touch elbows or offer other symbols of connection and peace.
  • Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. 
  • Evaluate the safety of serving food and beverages at church, passing offering plates, or other common exposure situations.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. 
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces often, such as doorknobs, railings, countertops, remote controls, cabinet handles, and light switches.
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider in advance to tell them about your symptoms before arriving at a doctor’s office or hospital. 

Michigan Conference Communications will be providing guidance on how to stream church services through Facebook or online, and Conference Treasury can assist local churches with knowledge on how to set up online giving.  Please watch for frequent updates from the Michigan Conference on our website and via email.

For additional reading about the scope of the UMC’s response to the pandemic:

How coronavirus may affect the 2020 General Conference by Bishop Bruce Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Area
 “Adjusting to coronavirus threat” by Linda Bloom, Assistant News Editor for United Methodist News Service

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