In June, the Church Council charged a small group to research and make recommendations around UCUCC and COVID-19, especially around the question of how, when, and under what circumstances we can regather in our building.
Here’s an update from that action team:
The main risk of infection with COVID-19 is proximity to someone who is infected, plus the amount of time that you interact with the infected person. That’s why wearing a mask and keeping a six foot distance really does help. When you take those two precautions and are gathered in an outdoor space, your risk is reduced to nearly zero. Indoor spaces are more complicated. Safe and healthy indoor air quality is a combination of ventilation (air flow) and filtration. To improve our building in these two areas, the COVID-19 Action Team has recommended the following upgrades to the UCUCC building HVAC system.
- Upgrade our filters from MERV 8 (standard) to MERV 13 (recommended for capturing particles of varying sizes, including the coronavirus). This advanced filtration will also help during cold and flu season!
- Reconfigure our system to increase outdoor ventilation, so less air is recycled throughout the building. Unfortunately, this makes our system less efficient and less environmentally friendly, but re-circulating the air can also re-circulate the virus.
- Purchase a few portable HEPA filtration systems for spaces that aren’t connected to our HVAC system.
These three improvements have been approved by the Facilities & Equipment Committee in their September meeting, and could be implemented as soon as November. There will be a one-time fee to reconfigure the HVAC system, and an estimated additional cost of around $2,000 per year for the higher rated filters (the cost of the filters has been increasing, and we may need additional filters). The increased cost of utilities from recycling less air is largely unknown.
The team is also working to create an updated COVID-19 Safety Plan, as we evaluate when we might safety gather with small groups in the building. We are looking closely at state guidelines for faith-based organizations, as well as identifying room capacities, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, contact tracing and reporting plans, air ventilation and filtration (as mentioned above), and most importantly, we are focused on the values that guide any decision to regather. We base our approach on the following values:
- We will gather when we know we are not asking the most vulnerable in our community to risk their health or be left behind in isolation.
- We will continue to follow the guidelines developed out of the best science available, as we follow CDC guidelines and listen to community health professionals.
- We will honor the work of our custodians and others who care for our building by keeping them as safe as possible.
- We will wait for good diagnostic, treatment, and vaccine tools to be available.
Important health and safety reminders: current estimates are that 20% – 40% of COVID-19 transmission is caused by asymptomatic spreaders (people who are infected but don’t show any symptoms). Another significant factor is that people can be contagious for up to 5 days before starting to show symptoms themselves. Wearing masks, staying six feet apart, and gathering outside when possible, are the best tools we have for keeping ourselves and our whole community safe.
UCUCC Covid-19 Action Team:
Wes Van Voorhis, Carol Ingram, Roger Garratt, Terry Moore, Ed Coleman, Sione Tu’ihalamaka, Kyna Shilling, Amy Roon, Catherine Foote, and Todd Smiedendorf.