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Conference Response to Latest CDC Recommendations (Updated Jan. 27, 2022)

January 27, 2022 Update from PRG

Greetings to the local churches and PRG teams, who are doing their best to keep our members and the community safe! We are grateful for your dedication and discernment in stopping the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant. In the past week, we have seen the numbers of COVID reports from our local churches decline. We believe this is a result of the strong mitigation practices established by each local church’s PRG teams. We ask each church to keep up the great work and continue to be vigilant.

Please remember to keep all the families who are battling with COVID in your prayers. Added prayers are needed for the health care workers and for our communities to make the best decisions for the welfare of everyone, so let’s continue to keep each other in our prayers.

The PRG team wanted to clarify the reason why we ask churches to report COVID cases to the district superintendent and to the Rev. Dr. Steve Summer, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries. If a clergy person is exposed or tests positive, it is imperative that the district superintendent be notified of how the church is responding to the absence of the chief worship leader. However, the report shared with the Assistant to the Bishop is limited to an event when a guest or a member attends a worship service or church function and subsequently tests positive for the virus. In those events, we would like to have data on how our mitigation practices are working in stopping the spread of COVID. Therefore, it is helpful for us to understand the mitigation practices the church has established and how its responses change after the report. We would also like to see if there were any transmissions that occurred during the event, so we can have data on assessing the overall effectiveness of our practices.

We rely on your leadership and reporting to make sure that all 1,300 churches of the Virginia United Methodist Conference are a safe sanctuary for God’s people to worship and share the love of God with one another and the world. Please continue to join us in this effort. We also hope that the following resources will help your church’s PRG team’s decisions in ensuring the safety of all people.

In Christ

PRG Team

(View this update and the following information in pdf format)


Do children still need to wear a mask at church?

On January 15, 2022, the Governor of Virginia issued Executive Order Two (2022) which allows parents of school-aged children to elect for their child “not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.” While pandemic restrictions continue to be relaxed regionally and nationally, and we give thanks for these hopeful signs, we know the pandemic is not over. Your PRG Team is charged with regularly reviewing the appropriateness of the layered mitigation practices for your congregation, especially during times when we experience a resurgence of COVID-19 or its variants.

Masks are still appropriate in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, when physical distancing cannot be maintained and/or in congregant settings where persons from multiple households are gathered. Universal and correct use of face masks is part of our collective, layered mitigation practices which have proven effective for reducing and mitigating the transmission of COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control continues to recommend that everyone 2 years of age or older who is not fully vaccinated should wear a mask over their nose and mouth while in indoor public places.

We recommend that if your congregation currently requires masks to be worn by those attending worship and other church-sponsored events, parents who request that their school-age children be exempt from mask-wearing may submit their request in writing to the PRG. Each PRG may then review the request(s) and make decisions that are consistent with the health and welfare of the children and their church community, making every effort to “love our neighbor” and “do no harm.” The “B.R.A.I.N.” decision-making model (previously provided in the MAP) is offered to local PRGs to assist you in making important and challenging decisions for your church moving forward. Gathering input from the congregation may also be helpful to the PRG in their decision-making process.

*contributed by Reba Miller, R.N & Attorney, PRG member

All masks are not equal

New guidance on respirators or facemasks from the CDC as of Jan. 14 can be found at: 

Some masks are more protective than others and this is particularly important with the more transmissible Omicron variant. Vaccination remains the best and most reliable way to prevent the spread of all variants of COVID 19. 

Masks provide an extra layer of protection for everyone in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. Social distancing, limited exposure time, and increased ventilation are also important. Well-fitting N95 (95% particle filtration) masks that meet the U.S. NIOSH standards and KN95 which meet the international standard provide the best protection. There are other paper masks that do so as well, such as the KF94. These masks are electrostatically charged to attract aerosol particles to the paper. Straps that go around the head rather than just the ears tend to provide a better and more comfortable fit. The KN95 masks are often counterfeited, so take care in purchasing them. See for tips on avoiding counterfeits. 

Surgical masks tend to allow leakage around the sides and below the eyes and typically do not have multiple layers. Although not as effective, cloth masks should have at least three layers of fabric and fit snugly around the nose and mouth including a metal strip to provide a close fit above the nose.


Can N95 Masks be reused?

You can clean and reuse your KN95 or N95 mask using a brown paper bag. Observing a three-day cycling process before reuse allows for any aerosols on the surface of the mask to dry out/evaporate and any active virus to dissipate. The bag serves to keep the mask covered and clean between uses over the three days. 

*Contributed by Mr. Andrew Kissell, Environmental/Sanitary Engineer, PRG team

Outside groups using church buildings

It is the responsibility of the local church’s PRG to provide guidelines for any outside groups using the church facility. Remember to use the M.A.P., and remember that constant communication is the key.

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 –

NEW Technical Assistance Manual (TAM)

Mitigation Assistance Plan (MAP)

Click here to open a fillable pdf form

 Latest News and Resources from PRG  

PRG Best Practices

Visit this page for ‘Best Practices’ as the church lives into the post-pandemic world.

Relaunch Webinars Season 2

This is a monthly Wednesday afternoon webinar series, which will also be recorded and posted on the website for future viewing with any church leaders who are not able to attend afternoon sessions

PRG Relaunch Webinars Season 1

In preparation for this transition, the new conference PRG team will host a series of four webinars. Visit this page to view the webinars.

PRG Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

*Disclaimer: If the number of positive COVID cases and variance of the virus reaches an unsustainable level, the Annual Conference will retrieve the decision making authority.

(View as pdf)


What does PRG mean?

PRG stands for Post-COVID Re-Entry Group, in short PRG. ‘Post’ pandemic suggests that it’s all over and we can go back to the status quo. However, we are still in a pandemic and will be impacted by this in a variety of ways for a long time. We are aware that we cannot declare an end to the pandemic, and believe that we need to continue our effort to be vigilant. At the same time, we believe that our churches are at the critical juncture to prepare for the Post-COVID era. As we ask for the churches to continue their deliberations in setting the safety guidelines for its ministries, we ask the churches to use this time to rethink and prepare to relaunch ministries in this new-normal. We are here to make ‘Progress (PRG)’ and will commit to support the efforts of the churches.

Are you asking us to form a new team?

The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ We do want to relieve the committed members of the HCT, as we appreciate their hard work. We suggest that the church invites 2-3 members of the HCT to be part of the PRG team, so there is continuity and safety measures can continue. We ask the pastor, in consultation with the lay leader, to recruit key leaders of the church to envision and plan for the future of the church. The pandemic has brought us challenges, proving just how resilient and adaptable our churches can be. Now is the time to envision new dreams and ministry plans on a new blank sheet of paper. We strongly encourage each church to be progress-oriented and dream of new ways to engage, instead of recoiling back to March, 2020. We recommend a member of the Trustees be part of PRG, as they can bring knowledge of responsibilities pertaining to the church facilities.

I’m in a small church and are you asking me to form a new team?

We understand that forming a new team can be difficult. We do acknowledge that it may be the best option for a church administrative council to serve as the PRG team. Remember to include former HCT members and people who can bring new voices and thoughts to the table.

What is the difference between HCT and PRG?

PRG teams will continue to plan and execute safety measures for the churches. However, we ask that the churches will soon adapt their conversations to reflect, rethink, and reshape their vision to effectively provide ministry in the Post-COVID era. If the church did not have a clear vision, this will be a time to develop a vision, which is aligned to the Mission Statement of the United Methodist Church, ‘Making Disciples of Jesus Christ, for the Transformation of the World’ and the vision of the Virginia Annual Conference ‘to be disciples of Jesus Christ, who are Lifelong Learner, who Influence others to Serve.’

What does this newly-shared May 28 date mean for previously stated July 1 local church decision-making?

According to the new announcement from the Governor, and Executive Order 79 being in effect on May 28th, the decision-making process will change. The date we announced to transition from Approval to Review is to take effect on May 28th. The May 15 announcement from the Conference allowed churches to make immediate changes without District Superintendent notification or approval. Churches should communicate any of those pre-approved steps that they are taking to their District Superintendent as soon as possible, and begin using the M.A.P. and their PRGs to move beyond those steps or initiate new plans after May 28, 2021.


Why does a church need a PRG team?

The purpose of the PRG team is twofold. First, the PRG will continue the conversation about safety guidelines for the local church while closely monitoring any changes in the number of emerging cases in their locality. That is why we ask at least 2-3 HCT members to continue to serve on the PRG team. The other important purpose is to help the church ‘Rethink & Reshape’ its ministry. We envision that each PRG team will function as a thinktank for the church leadership. That is why we ask certain council members to be involved in PRG, but more importantly young and new members to join to help the church to ‘Rethink & Reshape.’  We understand that some churches will use the church council to work as their PRG. We strongly recommend that the council add new voices, as voting members, in crafting the plan for Relaunch!

Who nominates PRG?

The Pastor of the local church, as the chairperson of the Nomination committee (¶ 258.1) shall nominate the PRG members in consultation with the lay leader, as the vice-chair of Nomination. Through consultation the PRG chair should be appointed by the pastor and lay leader, and pastor and lay leader are not advised to function as PRG chair.


What is the difference between DS Review vs DS approval?

Until May 28, churches will need approval from their DS to advertise and execute any changes in their ministry plan. According to our guidelines, churches need to submit a plan 14 days prior to the ministry event date or start of a new change. After the submission of the plan, churches are to wait till they receive an approval from their District Superintendent. 

Starting on May 28, we ask the churches to submit a plan to their DS for review two weeks prior to its implementation. Once the plan is submitted, churches can start the advertisement and execution of the plan without waiting to hear back from the DS. Remember, however, that the DS has the ability to provide guidelines, suggestions, or requirements in order for events to proceed. If the DS sees a huge deviance from mitigation and safety measures, they have the prerogative to send the plan back to make appropriate changes.

Who writes the plan, according to the revised TAM, for after May 28?

Responding to the change of the Governor’s order, we asked churches to activate local church PRG teams. The PRG is to work as a task force for the church council to recommend new safety guidelines for the church. We understand the timeline for writing and implementing plans for each church will be different. We acknowledge that churches may decide to ask their current HCT groups to continue serving as their PRG moving forward.  However, we want to encourage churches to consider incorporating new people into their PRGs, to bring fresh perspectives and a wider range of voices and congregational representation to their decision-making process. This will help the local church to rethink and reshape their various ministries, as we prepare to enter a new normal.

What is the process of approval?

For plans effective after May 28, we ask the PRG to draft the plans. The PRG is tasked to make plans on behalf of the church. For the purpose of providing an opportunity for accountability and consensus, we recommend that the church council (administrative board) approve the plan. Upon reaching consensus the plan should be submitted to the District Superintendent for review only, using the google form or M.A.P. word document.

Why do plans need to be submitted?

We ask that plans related to safety/mitigation measures be submitted for review to the District Superintendent for the purpose of accountability. As long as the churches are developing plans that demonstrate careful consideration of safety measures and an awareness of any change in emerging cases in their locality, District Superintendents will not intervene in the decision-making process. In situations where the plan does not incorporate important safety measures for all people, the District Superintendents may provide feedback or ask that the plan be reworked. The review is not intended to restrict the churches, but to assist and support all of our churches in making the best decisions for their members moving forward.

Timeline for plans for review?

Be real and don’t submit plans at 5:30 pm on Friday for Sunday Morning.  Please give the District Superintendent a good two weeks prior to the change or event.

What if pastors are not comfortable with the decision of the PRG?

There will be moments when pastors will have to serve as the balance or safety valve as we resume activities but maintain safety as a priority. Pastors will have the authority to delay the execution of the plan. 

When do I start submitting the M.A.P. for review to the District Superintendent?

We ask that any changes made after May 28th should be shared to the District Superintendent for review. If the changes made were based on the letter released on May 15th, 2021, and your church decided to implement the change after May 28th, there is still no need for approval. Some districts might utilize surveys to seek information on how the churches implemented changes based on the May 15th letter, but as stated there is no need to seek approval.


Do I need to report the immediate changes made, based on the letter published on May 15th?

The letter states, “…, churches can make some changes immediately as guided by their Healthy Church Team (HCT) and with the approval of the pastor, without District Superintendent’s approval.” A separate M.A.P. or approval is not necessary based on the letter, if the changes were made prior to May 28th, 2021.

Do I need to submit multiple M.A.P. for every change our church decides to make?

The intent of the M.A.P. was to allow churches to submit an overarching mitigation plan pertaining to their ministries.

Can I ask PRG questions about what we can do and cannot?

When the PRG is asked by a local church to provide answers regarding specific ministry activities, we will encourage the local church to make a deliberation by creating a consensus in the church. However, we still encourage the churches to reach out so we can provide information to help the churches make the safest decisions. Your questions also help us know where we need to provide more clarity and the possibilities of creating best practices.

What happens if a church has a positive case?

We require alerting the congregation about the positive case, without revealing the identity of the individual who has tested positive. We ask churches to assist with contact tracing efforts. Reporting the case to the District Superintendent is required. Those testing positive, or those who may have come in close contact with someone who tested positive (attended the same worship service or event), should be encouraged to seek medical guidance and to follow the recommendation of their health care provider with regard to testing, quarantining, etc. Closing down the church is not required at this point, but common sense cleaning measures in keeping with current CDC guidelines, are recommended.

Where can I access the recording of the past webinars?

All recordings of the past webinars along with documentation will be posted on Friday mornings. You can find Relaunch webinar page on the latest news or go to

Pastors, please share information with one another in the connection.

We understand that many pastors might be in areas where internet connection is unstable. We ask you to share the information with them. We need each other, especially in these moment 

*Disclaimer: If the number of positive COVID cases and variance of the virus reaches an unsustainable level, the Annual Conference will retrieve the decision making authority.

BEST PRACTICES are available here

Membership of PRG 


  • The Rev. RJ Jun is the Associate Director of Serving Ministries for the Virginia Conference. He will be joined on the new PRG by the following members:
  • The Rev. Beth Anderson, Pastor of Courthouse Community UMC, Virginia Beach (ER)
  • Ms. Marie Coone, Lay Member, Richmond District
  • The Rev. Nathan Decker, Pastor of Chester UMC, Franklin (JR)
  • Mrs. Heather Gomez, Lay Member, Harrisonburg District
  • The Rev. Nancy Coleman Johnson, Emmanuel UMC, Amherst (L)
  • Mr. Andrew Kissel, Environmental/Sanitary Engineer, Southeastern Jurisdiction United Methodist Men President
  • The Rev. Janet Knott, Glovier Memorial UMC (S)
  • The Rev. Brenda Lee Laws, Deacon, Greenbackville Charge (ES)
  • Dr. Karen McElfish, M.D., Pediatrician, Arlington District Lay Leader
  • Ms. Reba Miller, Woodlawn Faith UMC, R.N & Attorney  
  • The Rev. Leigh Anne Taylor, Revitalization Coordinator (L), President, The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music & Worship Arts
  • The Rev. Jenelle Watson, Associate Pastor, Calvary UMC, Stuarts Draft (S)

  New Items on the Resource page 

 Two new items have been added to the resource page on the conference website: a revised health acknowledgement poster and an update on ventilation


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