Wesley Changes Mask Policies
February 18, 2022: As COVID-19 cases decline and public health guidance changes, Wesley is modifying its mask policies. Wesley continues to require face masks in the Sanctuary during the Sunday worship services. At other times and in other areas of the building, Wesley is changing to a mask optional policy effective Friday, February 18, 2022. Wesley has resumed the fellowship hour with refreshments after church.
Wesley continues to encourage wearing face masks and keeping COVID-19 vaccinations up to date, including booster shots. Anyone who wishes to wear a face mask outside worship services should continue to do so. One-way masking with a high-quality mask (KN95 or N95) provides significant protection. Wesley has also invested in air filtration in the sanctuary and other common areas. It remains very important for everyone to check themselves for COVID-like symptoms before coming to Wesley. Anyone who is feeling sick should stay home and consider taking an at-home COVID test. Vaccinations, masks, air filtration, testing, and health checks mitigate risks and provide layers of protection to anyone attending church in person.
The City of Worcester lifted its indoor mask mandate on Friday, February 18. Worcester follows the Massachusetts Department of Health’s face covering advisory, updated on March 1. A fully vaccinated individual should wear a mask indoors (and not in your own home) if you have a weakened immune system, or if you are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease or is unvaccinated. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a face covering or mask when indoors with others to help prevent spreading COVID-19. Masks are required after isolation or quarantine, or in certain settings such as transportation or health care. In addition, the CDC updated its mask guidance based on COVID-19 Community Levels.
The mask guidance has changed because COVID-19 indicators have improved, and Massachusetts is a national leader in vaccine acceptance. Dashboards track indicators like cases or hospitalizations for Massachusetts and Worcester County. Wastewater testing now shows negligible Covid levels in Worcester/Upper Blackstone as well as Metro Boston. The Vaccine Equity Initiative reports that the city of Worcester population 5 and older is 83% 1+ dose and 70% fully vaccinated. Among the most vulnerable population in Worcester, 100% of those age 50 and older are vaccinated. To remain up to date on vaccinations, everyone 12+ should get a booster (those ages 5-11 are not yet eligible for booster shots).
During worship services and choir rehearsals, singing with masks has already resumed. Christian Education Sunday school classes will continue to follow practices used in the Worcester Public Schools (WPS), which currently require face masks. Schools are expected to reevaluate their policies when a state mandate expires at the end of February, and Wesley will align with WPS policies if they should change.
Outside of worship services, social time with food may resume after church and at other times. Outside groups at Wesley will continue to be informed that Wesley follows the state mask advisories. Keeping our mask policies in line with the local community is an important factor in attracting or retaining building users.
The recent surge has ebbed so much that the combination of improved conditions, high vaccination rates, wider availability of testing, and air filtration at the church provide confidence that this change in mask policies is a prudent step during this transition phase of the pandemic. We look forward to the spring and Easter seasons with hope for the renewal and resurrection of the church.
Update March 4, 2022: The CDC tool for COVID-19 Community Levels helps communities and individuals make decisions based on their local context and their unique needs. In Worcester County, the community level was rated “Low” (green) beginning on March 3. At this level, the CDC recommends you stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and get tested if you have symptoms. Additional CDC recommendations vary by low, medium and high community levels. If Worcester reaches the “high” level, then certain COVID precautions may resume at Wesley. During March, Wesley will monitor community levels and relax restrictions further if Worcester continues to remain at the “Low” level for several weeks.
This post has been superseded by more recent COVID updates.