ASC Reopening Task Force – Notes from Meeting 4 Feb 2022

Attendees: George Carvill, Peter Gibbons, Jamie Gibson, Leslie Kinney, Steve Squires, Rev. Telos Whitfield

Prior to the meeting, George had sent links to updated guidance from the UUA, which served as a basis for the conversation. He also sent around information and links regarding a remarkably inexpensive and effective build-it-yourself air purification device. Example: DIY box fan air filters – Corsi-Rosenthal box – Clean Air Crew

N95 and KN95 masks are substantially more effective at preventing COVID than cloth or surgical masks. But the difference is not so great to justify annoying people who show up with lesser masks, and it is OK to continue offering the surgical-style masks we already have. But we should buy only N95/KN95 grade masks for future use, and generally encourage the transition to more effective masks.

The policy of requiring masks in the building except for limited cases like a speaker currently on camera continues unchanged.

Given the lack of a ventilation system in our building, use of air purifiers is inevitable. The device alluded to above is apparently nothing more than 4 rectangular air filters (of adequate grade for COVID) normally used for HVAC systems, duct taped to form a tall square box, with a box fan duct-taped to the top, blowing upward. Very easy to make from readily available components, at very low cost. We should certainly try it out. Jamie agreed to make one.

The UUA suggests targeted usage of the rapid antigen tests, prior to a church service, especially for those planning to speak or perform without masks. These are rather expensive ($10 range), though limited numbers of free tests are available from government sources, usually to households, not the church. No decision here, though we do note that with such testing, anyone testing positive should really leave the building and go home. This would present an awkward situation for anyone with a key role in the service, and for the service itself.

Loong-term Sustainability of the technical crew to support hybrid services, or even Zoom hosting, remains a worry, though there are several people in training. Very simple models such as a Zoom client laptop aimed at the podium could be a solution.

Singing remains an issue, especially hymns. Congregational singing is considered too risky at present. Some churches have a soloist lead the hymn, with the congregation invited to hum along. Steve will speak with Eva and Tom about paths forward for the music.

Food and drink are also regarded as too risky. People would naturally gather with others NOT in their own “pod”.

We do note that people are free to go outdoors for more relaxed conversation.

We are aiming for an in-person service on March 13th. February stays online-only.  We recommend NOT requiring any pre-registration or reservations. The likelihood of exceeding our safe seating capacity is too small to justify the considerable work involved.

Next Meeting: Friday February 18th at 4:30

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ASC Reopening Task Force – Notes from Meeting Nov. 19, 2021

Attendees: Peter Gibbons, Jamie Gibson, Eva Greene, Leslie Kinney, Steve Squires, Rev. Telos Whitfield

The pandemic numbers in VT and the nation continue to get worse, concentrated among the unvaccinated, especially school-age kids. Also among people in high-density living situations. Peter is not so worried about our ASC population, where essentially all eligible are vaccinated, and are good about taking precautions. So far, other area churches holding in-person services are continuing to do so. No known problems.

We are fine with the Holiday Bazaar taking place outdoors as it did last year, as the team is planning.

Our first-ever hybrid service on the 12th, with only the on-screen people and tech crew physically present at the church, went very well.  All were masked and distanced except for when actually on-screen.  The next step is to also allow a reasonable number of attendees who are not part of the formal service.

Our focus was mostly on the Christmas Eve service.  Without actual numbers handy, we estimated that our Christmas Eve attendance over the past few decades has ranged as high as 200, but closer to 75 in the most recent pre-pandemic years. We talked of ways to keep it short, perhaps finishing with “Silent Night” outside. Eva is planning on mostly instrumental music (no singing), and stressed including the balcony to increase our capacity. Steve and Peter will revisit what our capacity would be, with balcony, 3-foot distancing, and tech requirements of doing a hybrid service. We can also overflow a bit into the parlor, piano alcove, and even the kitchen, perhaps as a “back stage” for those who are part of the service.

With COVID around, ventilation has become a big issue. The church building has no ventilation system other than opening windows and doors, obviously problematic in winter.  Steve distributed some thoughts on air purifiers prior to the meeting, including church-specific peculiarities like not really needing carbon filters for odors (no cooking, smoke), and that we actually would want a timer that simply turns things off in X hours, after everyone leaves; not the usual time-of-day programmable timer. Eva and Telos report that several area churches are already using purifiers. Eva is making inquiries.  There are a lot of purifiers on the market. Should be able to find something better than opening windows in winter. To be continued…

Our next meeting will be on Friday December 10th, 4:30 PM.

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Post-meeting addendum: Peter & Steve met at the church to look at the capacity situation.

Recommendations:

Maximum of 27 people in the balcony. Some clutter needs to be relocated, and chairs arranged for 3’ spacing or greater. One row at the railing, another row on the back pair of risers, 4 seats per riser. Several more chairs can fit on the far end, watching for the low and decreasing headroom.

Maximum of 70 people in the main hall. The lectern, chalice, etc. can be moved back from the edge of the stage, and the first row of seats can be spaced out in an arc at least 12 feet away from lectern and chalice, wherever people will be speaking unmasked.  Subsequent rows can be arranged at 3 foot spacing, staggered against neighboring rows for better spacing and visibility. The back row can be all the way against the back wall.

Of course, many people will attend in “pods” of trusted family and friends, and can sit closer together to each other. If the chairs are pre-arranged in a well-spaced pattern, people will likely get the idea and self-organize responsibly.

This assumes that the Tech crew takes little space. Perhaps the one seat worth for camera and tripod, another for the projector.