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By MC USA staff
(Mennonite Church USA) – The spread of a new coronavirus has raised concern around the world. Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) offers the following information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to empower conferences and congregations with accurate, reliable information to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and care for those who become ill. Additional resources from Everence, MHS and MennoMedia also are provided.
What are coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory diseases. The viruses are common in people and certain animals, such as bats. A new virus that has been named “SARS-CoV-2” causes the “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).
The World Health Organization declared an outbreak of COVID-19 in January 2020. The epicenter of the outbreak was Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The disease has since spread to other areas of the world, including the United States.
How does it spread?
Since SARS-CoV-2 is new, health officials are still learning exactly how it spreads. According to the CDC, the virus mainly spreads between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) through touching or when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be spread through touching contaminated surfaces and objects.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
Who is most at risk?
Though the virus is new, the COVID-19 infection is not an automatic death sentence. However, the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions are most at risk. Others who have contracted the disease have recovered.
Is a vaccine available?
There is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. Once a possible vaccine is developed, rigorous testing must be done before any vaccine is made public. The CDC estimates it will take 12-18 months for a vaccine to possibly be available to the public.
How can I protect myself from infection?
- Avoid being exposed to the respiratory virus.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with sick people, especially those with symptoms.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Have a family preparedness plan.
Resources for church and community leaders
The CDC recommends the following tips for churches and community gathering spaces:
- Wipe down everything touched by churchgoers, such as door handles, pew tops and railings with cleaning products.
- Avoid hugs and handshakes. Just wave or bow.
- Encourage people to wash their hands. Post reminders throughout the church. Free shareable resources on handwashing are available from the CDC.
- Make hand sanitizers available throughout the church.
- Place tissue boxes in every pew.
- Limit nonessential large gatherings.
- Host conference calls or video chats.
- Review your church’s emergency operations plans and communication plans.
- Advise congregation members to review their family emergency plans.
- Discourage panic and fear.
- Don’t spread false information.
- Encourage congregation members to seek information only from reliable sources such as the CDC And World Health Organization.
For a list of resources from the CDC and other agencies/organizations, visit MHS’ COVID-19 web page.
Additional guidance specifically for church and community leaders is available from the CDC here.
Everence also has a downloadable tip sheet, entitled “Managing COVID-19, Caring for ourselves and each other.” This is also available in Español/Spanish.
For free resources to help calm the fears of your congregation, download Beyond Our Fears: Following Jesus in Times of Crisis study from MennoMedia. A free download of Don’t Be Afraid: Stories of Christians in Times of Trouble is also available for children.
Mennonite Church Canada also has a list of resources available, including a helpful section on equipping congregations.
Cleaning tips for work and home
Clean surfaces that are visibly dirty with detergent or soap first, then disinfect. Wear disposable gloves while cleaning. A full list of registered disinfectants is available from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Guidance for employers
The CDC’s “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease” is available here.
CDC travel updates and recommendations can be tracked here.
If you are planning a trip abroad, check the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories for your intended destination.
Mennonite World Conference has called Anabaptist and Mennonite congregations around the world to unite in prayer. We invite you to speak and share the following prayer:
We pray for people in the U.S and around the world impacted by coronavirus. We pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones, and for those who have been quarantined and are feeling alone. We pray for healing for those who are sick. We pray for safety, strength and compassion for medical workers who may be overwhelmed caring for those who are battling various illnesses, and workers who are exposed to greater risks. We pray that our public officials act with compassion and wisdom as they work to contain the virus. We pray for those without access to health care, and for those who don’t know how they will make it if they get sick and can’t go to work. We pray that your peace will guard our hearts and minds so that we are not overcome by anxiety and fear.
God, inspire in us ways to show your love to one another and to ourselves. Guide our hearts and our actions to greater care, kindness and generosity in the midst of these fears and uncertainties.