November 10, 2020 COVID-19 Update to the IAUMC

November 10, 2020 COVID-19 Update to the IAUMC

November 11, 2020

In support of Governor Kim Reynolds’ Public Health Proclamation on November 10, 2020, the input that we are getting from health professionals, and the awareness that our Iowa hospitals are reaching or are at capacity to accept new patients, the Iowa Conference of The United Methodist Church has made the prayerful and careful decision to mandate masks/face coverings for all gatherings. This includes all in-person local church worship, meetings, and groups occurring in United Methodist Churches throughout the Conference. 
 
We have given consideration to Section 5.E of the Governor’s Proclamation that speaks directly to the faith communities of our state. In this section, Governor Reynolds clearly states that religious gatherings are not prohibited. Additionally, Governor Reynolds is clear that faith communities “shall implement reasonable measures under the circumstances of each gathering to ensure social distancing of employees, volunteers, and other participants, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 consistent with guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Public Health.”
 
It is the position of Bishop Laurie Haller and the Appointive Cabinet that while there are set aside considerations for faith communities in this proclamation, the following Sections do inform what is meant by reasonable measures: 

  • Section One speaks to the role all Iowans have in protecting vulnerable members of our community. Governor Reynolds encourages those over the age of 65 and/or those with pre-existing conditions to limit activities outside of their residence. Furthermore, in this section, the Governor’s request is for all Iowans to do their part in limiting events that would encourage vulnerable populations to participate.
  • Section Two mandates the use of masks, face coverings, and physical distancing as critical actions that mitigate the spread of this disease. 
  • Section Five speaks to protocols in gatherings of more than 10 people (5.A); what reasonable measures mean; and limits gatherings of more than 25 indoors/100 outdoors (5.B). Section Five also prohibits large group gatherings if they do not adhere to physical distancing and masking protocols, with the exception of those under the age of two, or those with medical conditions that limit their ability to wear masks/face coverings.

For these reasons, we advise that in-person worship be suspended if your county statistics are in the Red category. However, if church re-entry leadership teams determine that in-person church gatherings can continue, masks, physical distancing, and other hygiene protocols will be required in our United Methodist Churches, beginning November 11, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.
 
To access the pdf of the Governor’s mandate, follow this link: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/pages/proclamations
 
For assistance in determining your COVID-19 recovery phase, attached is a video created by Rev. Katie Dawson of Immanuel UMC in Des Moines that talks you through the process. https://youtu.be/LyuNHkPU0V0