Is KC’s Church Community Prepared for Re-Opening?

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KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas Responds to Questions, Clarifies Guidelines

  • The 138-year-old Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church located in the city’s historic Santa Fe Neighborhood at 2910 E. 30th Street in Kansas City, Mo. is one of the city’s oldest predominately black churches.
    The 138-year-old Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church located in the city’s historic Santa Fe Neighborhood at 2910 E. 30th Street in Kansas City, Mo. is one of the city’s oldest predominately black churches.
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As has been reported recently, African-Americans are suffering disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic and in cities across the nation, including Kansas City, death tolls among minority populations continue to rise.

Unfortunately, the greater Kansas City black church community in recent weeks has witnessed the deaths of several prominent clergy and gospel musicians due to COVID-19. With this in mind, and as churches, some with predominately black congregations prepare to reopen their buildings, The Kansas City Globe asked Mayor Quinton Lucas to advise church leaders on the most recent guidelines churches and religious gatherings are being asked to comply with in order to ensure their congregations’ health and safety.

Below are the Mayor’s office’s responses to the Q&A received at K.C. Globe presstime:

Q.: If the May 15 date that you have set for the complete re-opening of the city, will still stand—will churches planning reopening on May 15 still be required to adhere to the 10- 10-10 rule, or will the restrictions be relaxed back to the 6 ft., social distancing, and will there be a maximum number allowable besides the current 10 in-person rule now in effect?

A.: Religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals, were allowed to resume in-person as early as May 6, subject to the 10/10/10 guidelines, if held inside, or limited to 50 people outside, provided social distancing precautions are followed. Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to provide their names or contact information at any religious gathering to assist with contact tracing efforts. We are evaluating whether further relaxations are warranted after May 15 based on health data and guidance from medical professionals, and will issue an update when it is available.

Q.: It appears that providing the data on persons attending the services will be relatively easy, since churches have that information already on its membership rolls, and would probably only have to create a master list of its members names and check them off as they enter. If there are visitors, of course their complete name, address, phone, etc. will need to be requested. Will this work, or do you suggest another option?

A.: While not required, as part of its effort to reopen all aspects of life safely, responsibly and efficiently, Kansas City asks organizations that typically record attendance, like many church gatherings on Sundays, restaurants with reservations, or stylists with appointments, to maintain those records however they prefer in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, so that the organizations themselves or, if not, the Department of Public Health can advise people who may have been exposed to an ill person, and so that we can limit community spread to their friends or family. Like other outbreaks, from E-coli to measles in our schools, the Health Department is bound to confidentiality as it works with any organization to protect its attendees.

Q.: Some churches are considering having temperatures taken of individuals when they arrive at the church as well as requiring them to wear masks and gloves. So, is this a good idea, or what exactly will the City require as far as this is concerned?

A: The only requirement for PPE is for individuals whose job duties require them to have close personal interactions with other employees or visitors. There is no requirement for churches or any other establishments to take the temperatures of patrons or employees, nor for them to require masks and gloves. However, we do strongly recommend that individuals wear masks when in public, as this will help limit the spread of COVID-19, particularly from asymptomatic individuals who may not know they have the virus and pose a threat to others. Churches and businesses are welcome to implement additional protective measures (such as temperature checks) above and beyond city mandates to protect the safety of their employees and visitors.

Q.: Many church vans transport people to and from services. Are there any particular restrictions on this as far as social distancing, wearing masks, etc.?

A.: Vans may transport individuals to and from services, so long as social distancing is followed. We strongly recommend that all individuals wear masks when in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Q.: Are there any specific guidelines for churches who have food pantries?

A.: Food pantries are an essential service and can continue operations at full-capacity, so long as proper social distancing guidelines are met.

Q.: If masks are to be worn inside, what is the guidance for choir members? Is social distancing still required?

A.: Social distancing is still required for choir members. While it is not required of choir members, we strongly recommend that all individuals wear masks when in public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Q.: There are also questions about advance preparation of the building prior to re-opening. Since churches have been closed since the original StayHome-Order, will it be necessary to have the building professionally disinfected beforehand? Many of the small-to-medium sized churches are working with very limited budgets. If outside professional services are required, some may not be able to afford that. Please explain the pre and post-disinfecting procedures that will be required if any.

A.: Outside professional cleaning services are not required. We continue to stress the importance of social distancing, personal hygiene and staying home if you’re sick to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Q.: What consideration if any has been given to providing resources financial or otherwise to churches who may be at a disadvantage for adhering to any restrictions related to the COVID-19 guidelines? For example, providing disposable masks, hand sanitizers, other related required paraphernalia?

A: We understand that churches and places of worship are financially nimble and do not exist to earn a profit. Mayor Lucas created a Small Business Emergency Relief Fund to provide loans to small, locally owned businesses who have been affected by COVID19. Applications are available on the Economic Development Corporation’s website at edckc.com. Mayor Lucas is also working with leaders at the federal, state, and county levels to ensure Kansas City receives its population share of the stimulus funds passed by Congress last month.

Q.: What are the guidelines for churches who want to have services outside the building? Do you have any suggestions?

A.: Congregations may gather together outdoors to worship, so long as they are practicing social distancing guidelines and do not allow capacity to exceed 50 people.

Q. Besides referring them to the City’s and the CDC’s coronavirus websites, is there is any other guidance you can give to the church leadership in preparation for their reopenings, please discuss.

A.: We know, especially in these uncertain times, how important community and worship is, but we want to ensure that everyone can worship safely. Kansas City continues to encourage those who can – especially those in highrisk groups – to keep worshiping online and from the safety of their home. We’re grateful to all of the faith leaders across our community for their leadership and prayers as our community together has worked to stay home and protect one another. Mayor Lucas will continue to meet regularly with faith leaders of all denominations on how to best protect their congregations and what the next steps should be as Kansas City moves forward with its reopening plans. For constant updates and frequently asked questions, visit the city’s website: KCMO.GOV/ CORONAVIRUS.