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COVID-19 Virus
 
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COVID-19 in Church, need to get tested, or have recovered?

Andrew Metcalfe —

We have received new advice if you are re-infected with COVID-19.

If you have recovered from COVID-19

This advice has now changed as a result of new scientific evidence.

  • Anyone experiencing symptoms for 29 days or longer after previous infection should test and isolate if they test positive.
  • Should people test positive, they will need to isolate for 7 days.
  • This is a change from earlier advice, which was that people would not need to re-test if they had tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days. The change is based on the latest international evidence and the need to quickly isolate people with reinfections.
  • Household contacts who have had COVID-19 within 90 days won’t need to isolate unless they are symptomatic. 

Accessing Testing for suspected infection

Attend a testing station, urgent care or GP if symptomatic or request a free RAT supply via: https://requestrats.covid19.health.nz/. Note one person can also pick up on the behalf of others within the residence. Call 0800VIRUS19 (0800 847 8719) to find out where the nearest place is to access testing. This number can also be called to request a delivery of RATs if there is lack of ability/transport to get to a RAT pickup station.

If RAT test positive: Upload RAT result to My Covid Record - this will link them into the system allowing them to get GP care by phone (this will be reinforced when the RATs are given). If they need help with doing this upload, they can call 0800 222 478.

If members are feeling unwell, please suggest they call their GP or HealthLine COVID line on 0800 358 5453.

Support

If your members need financial or welfare support, they can contact the Ministry of Social Development through 0800 559 009. Or use this link to be connected with other organisations that can help: Community Organisation Support While You're Self-Isolating (workandincome.govt.nz).  The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has produced Guidance for places of worship, which contains further information that you may find helpful. It is available here (and is attached below).

What happens if we are exposed to the virus at a Church gathering?

Public Health South are able to provide support and guidance for churches about what to do when there have been cases present at worship settings. Contact PHS EOC Operations on PHSOPS@southerndhb.govt.nz and then someone will phone back to assist 7 days per week.

If you hear about this directly from a person who has attended a gathering at your church, please let the Diocesan office know (Nicola or Andrew) and we can help with getting in touch with Public Health South.

See the template below which you can adapt to send out to your parishioners to notify of an exposure event at Church. 

Public Health South Advice

Thank you for the work you are doing to support and protect your community in these challenging times. Worship communities play an important role in promoting the health and wellbeing of community members. As COVID-19 has become widespread in the community, it can be challenging to balance the benefits of meeting with others in person with the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly for vulnerable community members.

The COVID-19 Protection Framework – Guidelines for places of worship provides guidance for worship communities. This document is available here. It outlines the minimum measures that need to be applied to places of worship. Places of worship are encouraged to consider what additional measures they may want to put in place to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

There is now widespread transmission of COVID-19 in our community. We encourage places of worship to take extra precautions for a short period, while COVID-19 case numbers are particularly high. The following measures can reduce the risk of infection:

  • Providing online services and offering online or phone options for any personal, one-on-one prayers or faith-based support
  • Encouraging vulnerable community members to consider attending online
  • Encouraging mask wearing in indoor settings, beyond the minimum requirements (masks should cover the mouth and nose and should not be removed for talking or singing)
  • Physical distancing (encourage bubbles to stay separate, make sure there are plenty of chairs and space them well apart)
  • Good ventilation or meeting outside
  • Ensuring that groups gathering in different spaces are kept separate, including separate entrances, exits and toilets
  • Reminding people to stay home and get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms
  • We recommend not sharing food or drink indoors at this time
  • For gatherings in smaller spaces, such as private homes, consider:
    • The number of people in relation to the size of the space
    • Whether vulnerable people are present
    • Opening doors and windows to improve ventilation, if possible
    • Wearing masks to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission
    • Being cautious when sharing food and drink (if possible, encourage eating and drinking outside or in a well-ventilated space)

We do not want to overly worry the community or keep them away from church, as at this current point in the outbreak, we are expecting almost all settings to have exposure to Covid-positive people.  

Church bells — Image by: pixabay.com

What will Public Health South need to know?

  1. What was the name-contact details of the person infected?  (This will help them to follow this up if you were notified by the person themselves. Please also seek the person's permission to pass their details onto Public Health South).
  2. How many people were present?
  3. Did they wear masks, and were there any times when these were removed (e.g. for receiving communion, refreshments after the service)?
  4. What is the cleaning regime?
  5. Were doors and windows open in the spaces used?
  6. What is the size of the room where people were present without masks and the length of time of possible exposure?
  7. Have you got a record of who was at the gathering/event as well as scanning in using COVID-19  Tracer app?

This means that the information is immediately available to Public Health South about contacts, transmission risk as length of time exposed without or with wearing a mask, to help determine risk.

What do we need to change right now?

  • We recommend you have answers to the above questions ready in case you are asked. 
  • We strongly suggest you go back to keeping a manual record of who is present as the situation changes. 
  • We advise you to review your hospitality arrangements i.e. not to share food or drink inside at this time.
  • Keep following all the recommended public health cautions: keep your masks on, give each other plenty of space, ventilate your areas if you can and wash/sanitise your hands frequently. 
  • We also recommend you look again at the Government Guidelines for Places of Worship to make sure you have everything else covered. 

What's next?

The Ven Jan Clark is the Diocesan Contact Person for Public Health South on the weekend-after hours and Nicola Wong or Andrew Metcalfe in the Diocesan Office are available for advice and information. We are able to give out contact details for Wardens and/or Clergy as appropriate, so you may find you are contacted directly. 

When is it safe to resume services?

Each faith community is encouraged to work through this for themselves - some may want to be more cautious due to the vulnerability of people who attend, others may feel they have enough measures in place to safely re-open. In any case, its recommended you clean and ventilate the areas used thoroughly following the guidance in  Guidelines for places of worship.

Links to other Useful Information

Be Kind — Image by: Southern DHB