I know everyone has a “10 Ways to Stay Safe this Flu Season” article, but this is different. And for me, this is a lot more personal. My wife has Multiple Sclerosis, has been undergoing chemotherapy as her treatment for two years, and is immunocompromised. While people are picking sides on a virus, I am over here as a husband and caregiver helping our family navigate this as best as possible.
A few things to note:
“What does it matter, Russ?”
For those who are young and in good shape, probably not much outside of becoming a well-informed individual. For those whose immune system may be compromised, who are over the age of 60, or infants, it could mean everything.
This is NOT about telling you what to do; it’s about helping you mitigate risk and provide a healthier environment for your church.
We always have hand sanitizer on hand. We are adamant about using it, at Target, grocery stores, at home and at lacrosse games. We use it everywhere, because it’s a simple way we can help reduce our risk. As a church, you can help others reduce their risk by providing hand sanitizer at every entrance to a building, classroom, venue, bathroom, or common area (I’m looking at you coffee carts).
We wipe down our house daily. We use name brand Lysol and Clorox now, as the EPA has labeled most off-brand as not being good enough to kill all germs and viruses. Yeah, costs go up, but the risks go down. Anytime we have people over, the door handles, bathroom handles, seating, etc … get either sprayed or wiped down. It’s weird to have a house smell like a hospital at time, but it helps reduce risk and that’s important. If you wipe down classrooms after every use, not only are you helping reduce risk to the kids in your care, you are falling in line with the San Diego Unified School District and most of the school districts nationwide (Did you know: Costco gas in Carlsbad is wiping down each pump after every use?).
We sit outside more often than not. Proper ventilation and filtration is critical for helping contain the spread of airborne droplets. While the virus cannot be stopped by a common filter without a scrubber, most filters are able to catch droplets from coughs. And if you’ve ever attended church services, you know that’s nearly non-stop right now. But we sit outside. We sit outside a lot. For us, it’s an easier way for us to stay engaged in community while my wife’s chemo does its job. If her immune system is compromised in cycles, when it cycles closer to chemo, we choose open air as much as possible. Just a common cold can hurt, so this is how we reduce risk. Churches can help reduce risk here by providing proper ventilation inside, as well as an outside area that attendees can engage with the weekend content.
At North Coast Church, the common area between our largest venues serves as our go-to venue. No, it is NOT what North Coast would define as a venue (no host, worship, giving moment, etc …), but we can see the TV inside the foyer through the glass, hear the message through the outdoor speakers, and stay warm near the firepits. No, it’s not what most would consider their optimal listening environment, but we love it and it could easily be made into a formal venue environment if given the time and resources (there are roughly 50 or so who choose this every week with us, spread out between a dozen or so tables and three firepits).
On that note, it’s pretty easy to take your church live online. If you want to offer another option for your church, you could easily stream via YouTube, use a church livestream for a more hosted experience (quite a few larger universities are doing this, like Berkeley and Stanford), or make sure your social media channels are updated immediately after a service with both video and audio content. The worst thing you could do is leave a person feeling disconnected, and in today’s hyper-connected context, it’s super simple to get online.
The best thing you can do is be proactive instead of reactive.
While my advice is more descriptive than prescriptive, I have received three emails from pastors this week about the issue; I know this is something a lot of you are working through right now. If I could boild down my list, I would start with the following three action items, outside of what your own internal risk assessment measures may be.
- Place hand sanitizer at every entrance and common area.
- Wipe down all surfaces after every use.
- Provide proper ventilation and open air venues.
I hope this helps. If not, I hope it gives insight into where my family, and a lot of other families are at.
Russ Cantu, Owner at Catalyst
• Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or lawyer. I am just like you, an avid reader who is also helping you understand our family’s current context.