Select Page

January 6, 2022

New Year’s greeting in the name of our Lord and Savior! 

As we enter into 2022, we remember the faithfulness of our Lord, who continues to walk with us during this pandemic. We also remember the faithfulness of our local PRG team leaders, with their ongoing effort to ensure the safety of their members and their communities. The new year might feel similar to where we were in 2020, but we rely on the faithfulness that our Lord will be with us, and also provide a way out so we can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). 

As the Omicron variant surges throughout the nation, and the Commonwealth becoming a hotspot for this new variant, we encourage the local PRG teams to continue evaluating their context and adherence to the best practices. There is a spike in the number of cases related to our local churches, and we learned that the tools in the toolkit: vaccination, masking and social distancing are effective in stopping the spread. We are thankful for the vigilant effort of each PRG team implementing effective mitigation strategies. 

Not only will the next 4-6 weeks be one of the toughest tests for the churches, as members return from their Christmas holiday gatherings, but also a critical point in the battle against COVID. This is a good time to reevaluate and adjust plans accordingly. While we know that the decisions before our local churches, pastors, and local PRG teams are not easy, know that your bishop and Cabinet have every confidence in you to make the best decisions for the safety of your members and communities.  

In addressing this new surge, plans for each local church may look different. We are seeing churches strengthening their mitigation methods by going back completely virtual, reinstating masking requirements and social distancing, limiting singing and choir practices, upgrading ventilation systems, etc. The Conference PRG team will continue to provide best practices in support of each local PRG team. The following resources are attached to this communication: New Resources, Reminders, and Other Resources.

Thank you, once again for your leadership and efforts to keep our members and the community safe! We thank you for your faithfulness in walking through this pandemic with us and our Lord. 

In Christ, 

Bishop Lewis, Cabinet, and PRG Team

New Resources

View as pdf

Omicron information - Q&A with Dr. George Moxley, MD, Rheumatology Specialist, previous HCT member, regarding the Omicron variant

Q&A with Dr. George Moxley

Q: What is meant by ‘milder’? 

A: Milder at this point is defined by lower rate of hospital admission or lower rate of emergency room consultation. We all hope it’s milder in all ways including long Covid. But there are some nuances that make the evidence of supposed milder disease with omicron less than absolutely certain, specifically the populations studied differing in age bracket, chronic diseases, vaccination and booster status, and so on, from studies of prior variants and the original virus. For example, if the infected population is largely vaccinated or younger, you would expect milder disease—sometimes statistical methods may correct for such. This variant is so new that some evidence is not even peer reviewed.  

Q: Omicron seems to be more contagious than other variants. Is it? 

A: The omicron variant is even more infectious than the delta variant that was in turn more infectious than the original SARS-CoV2 (R0- a mathematical term that indicates how contagious and infectious disease is- 10, 7, 2.5, respectively–each person infected with the omicron variant infects ten other people, with delta seven, and with the original, two and one-half). We all hope the omicron variant is the last variant, but only time will tell. The omicron variant partly dodges immune response generated by vaccination or prior infection (or some monoclonal antibody therapies), so booster immunization is vital to protection from serious or life-threatening Covid. Omicron commonly infects vaccinated people (breakthrough infections), but such people may transmit infection to others less frequently. 

Q: How do you project the aftermath of the holiday spread? 

A: The next four to six weeks will be terrible, my associate Dr. Richard Wenzel thinks. We may know in late spring what Covid will look like. Here’s what my guess would be at this point. The virus would be around in the population all the time from then on, with unvaccinated people including children getting infections, and vaccinated people with declining immunity getting breakthrough infections, so it would not completely disappear. In vaccinated people, everyone would eventually get infected, but most would have mild illness.   For the unvaccinated, some (10%?) would get long Covid and maybe 5% would be hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, maybe half would need intensive care, and half of those in ICUs would die. For the unvaccinated, I would hope that monoclonal antibody therapy would expand to cover variants and that newer antivirals will be more effective. But the pandemic will continue in the unvaccinated until the frequency of infection is so much lower that each susceptible person is unlikely to encounter the viruses shed by an infected person. Yet the virus would be hanging around in pockets. 

Q: What are the next steps in adapting?

A: As to the next steps in adapting, I think that getting as many as possible vaccinated, including boosters, and pharmaceutical manufacturers adapting vaccines to cover variants will be important.  The current mitigation measures should continue in the meantime because omicron can infect vaccinated and boosted people. Those would include outdoors whenever possible, switching to medical masking (non-counterfeit N95, KN95, or KF94 masks instead of cloth or surgical masks that are less effective) when other risk factors are present, distancing and masks in crowds, avoiding crowds if possible, upgrading HVAC systems to achieve much better ventilation, and surrounding yourself with fully vaccinated and boosted people.


“Data from South Africa and the United Kingdom demonstrate that vaccine effectiveness against infection for two doses of an mRNA vaccine is approximately 35%. A COVID-19 vaccine booster dose restores vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%. COVID-19 vaccination decreases the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 and older and boosters for everyone 16 and older. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our communities.” – CDC Updates and Shortens Recommended Isolation and Quarantine Period for General Population

At this moment, most of the vaccines are available for a booster for adults 18 and older six months after completing COVID vaccination. Teens 16-17 years old, who got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also eligible for a booster after six months. FDA approved, and CDC recommends a decision to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for teens 12 years and older to receive a booster after five months after completion of the two shots.
More information about Booster on CDC website –

Recent CDC announcement in recommending Booster for 12 years and older –

Vaccination for children

CDC recommends that children of the age of 5 and older receive the 2-dose PfizerBioNTech vaccination.

At this moment, most of the vaccines are available for a booster for adults 18 and older six months after completing COVID vaccination. Teens 16-17 years old, who got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are also eligible for a booster after six months. FDA approved, and CDC recommends a decision to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for teens 12 years and older to receive a booster after five months after completion of the two shots.
More information about Booster on CDC website –

Recent CDC announcement in recommending Booster for 12 years and older –

  1. We ask churches to remember the ‘why’ we need a local PRG team – Frequently Asked Questions
REMINDER - COVID Vaccination

Remember that vaccination is one of the best tools in our tool kit to fight against COVID. The church can also play an important role. Delta Variant, immunization, and ministry with children under 12

REMINDER - Flu, pneumonia vaccination

Dr. Karen McElfish, MD, Pediatrician, PRG member’s post –

REMINDER - Mitigation practices - screening, registration (more for contact tracing

HYGIENE: Encourage and provide for frequent hand hygiene (hand washing, sanitizer and helpful signage); continue to sanitize high-touch areas, especially with consecutive worship services/activities in the same space. (

PHYSICAL DISTANCING: Even though physical distancing requirements have been relaxed, distancing may still be appropriate, especially if indoors, unmasked, in a crowded public space, or in congregant settings where the vaccination status of others may be unknown;

MASKS: Masks are still appropriate, regardless of the vaccination status when physical distancing cannot be maintained or in congregant settings where persons from multiple households are gathered. Congregations that are considering unmasking indoors may want to consider those in their church family who are not yet vaccinated, including youth and children, and guests or others in attendance whose vaccination status may be unknown.

SCREENING: Stay home when sick; self-check in at the door with a health acknowledgement poster. This link provides a download of a Health Acknowledgment poster that can be edited for your use.

LIMIT EXPOSURE: Churches should try to gather outdoors whenever possible. When gathering indoors consider:  the total amount of time where groups are gathered indoors in any one gathering space; the number of people gathered in one space. It is preferable to use larger spaces over smaller ones for all indoor gatherings.

VENTILATION: Maximize airflow and turnover of air in the occupied space: 6 exchanges per hour is recommended; prioritize outdoor activities whenever possible

REMINDER - What to do when the church discovers a positive case

When a member who attended a service informs the pastor of their positive COVID-19 diagnosis, what are the steps the pastor/ church should take? 

Step 1. Notify all members attending the service/ event using the template below. Continue to keep close contact with the member who tested positive. Remember to be pastoral as your church cooperates with the effort of contact tracing. 

Step 2. Close off the section of the church where the member sat who attended the service/ event and conduct deep cleaning in that area. 

Step 3. Inform the District Superintendent, the Assistant to the Bishop/Director of Connectional  Ministries and the local health department of the positive case, and provide regular updates on the infection and mitigation measures completed  to the district. 

Step 4. Evaluate to determine if this was an isolated case or if multiple cases have developed in consultation with the local health department. 

If multiple cases have developed, review the M.A.P. and ask the P.R.G. team to determine ways to improve mitigations to prevent future outbreaks. Make assessment according to the following criteria:

  1. Was the mitigation planned out well?
  2. Was the mitigation plan properly implemented in accordance with the MAP?
  3. Even though it was planned well and properly implemented, did we determine that we still had an exposure?

Continue to monitor for any secondary cases. Consult with the District Superintendent and health department in the event of an outbreak. 

[Church Letterhead] 


[Contact Information] 

Subject: Potential COVID-19 Exposure and Precautions at ____________ UMC 

Dear Friends: 

I am writing to you and the congregation, who attended ____ am worship service on _____ [insert date] to discuss the protocol for handling a potential exposure to COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Please pray for our broader church community during this stressful time.

A worshiper who attended the _____ a.m. service at ________________ on [insert month, date, and year] has tested positive for COVID-19.  Any individuals who were in close contact, as defined by the Virginia Department of Health as within 6 feet (with or without mask) for 15 minutes or longer during a 24-hour period, have been notified directly. Fully vaccinated individuals are not required to quarantine, but we ask you to remain vigilant.  If you have not been directly notified  you are not medically impacted by this diagnosis.

 Our church leadership and PRG team members are closely monitoring this situation.  We have thoroughly cleaned the areas of possible exposure and reviewed (or reviewed and updated) our health mitigation plans. I will continue to keep you informed of developments. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Please remain vigilant and continue to keep our church and this community in your prayers. 

In Christ,  

Rev. ______________,

Senior Pastor

______________ UMC 



cc:       [Insert District Superintendent’s Name], District Superintendent

[_________ District] (Via Email)


Steve Summers, Assistant to the Bishop

Other Resources
  1. Latest CDC guidance on Quarantine –
  2. Vaccination and Risk tracker –
  3. VDH testing and vaccination site –
  4. Getting connected to your district health department’s COVID – Also connect with Care resource coordination team in the district health department who can assist members of the community impacted by COVID
  5. Virginia hospital association COVID dashboard- shows numbers hospitalization and numbers of ICU beds availiable in the Commonwealth –
Translate »