The US government is reaching out to faith communities this week, hoping that they can help to stop the physical spread of COVID-19 and the accompanying fear that many are experiencing.
HHS leaders said that faith and community leaders are vital to provide comfort and support right now.
In a statement, the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives at HHS acknowledged "these leaders have the unique ability to address potential concerns, fears, and anxieties regarding COVID-19."
It has published a list of resources ranging from prevention and treatment of the virus to how to build community when meeting physically isn't possible.
The center is encouraging churches to consider four tips to plan for the duration of the pandemic.
The first priority, says HHS, is developing a way to stay connected. It encourages churches to update contact lists and pay special attention to the vulnerable – the elderly or those living alone. The plan includes communicating the plan and preparing for small and large groups to meet virtually.
The second priority is keeping people safe. This includes those in the congregation and on staff. HHS says churches should develop safety measures for those who clean their facilities.
They should prepare to help those in the congregation who live alone or face isolation or quarantine. They should also prepare for leadership coverage if staff become ill.
HHS says basic operational matters should be the third priority. These can be very tangible considerations like reviewing the financial needs of staff and allowing telework accommodations to keep them on the payroll. Another consideration is the upkeep and sanitization of food pantries.
Its fourth tip for churches is to partner with other community leaders to care for people. That could include helping students who depend on school meals, offering technological help to other entities trying to stay connected, and working with local health leaders to distribute the latest information on COVID-19.
HHS is also answering the most frequently asked questions from churches. They include:
- What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19?
- Should we cancel our event
- What should we do if someone at a community gathering says they feel sick?