Wesley COVID Updates
March 7, 2023
The Wesley COVID Response Team has monitored developments and provided updates since 2020. More than a year ago, in February 2022, state and local officials removed their indoor mask mandates. At that time, Wesley adopted a mask optional policy in the church building at all times except in the sanctuary during the worship service, when masks were required. For the past year, Wesley has also hosted many mask-optional events in the sanctuary, including weddings, funerals, and choral concerts. Today, almost all choirs in the greater Worcester area have adopted mask optional policies for singers, congregations and audiences during worship or concerts.
Following the recommendation of the COVID Response Team, Wesley will remove the mandate to wear masks during worship services on Sunday, March 19, 2023. The change will be announced in the next week and take effect that Sunday.
Making masks optional during the worship service reflects several changes in the community—the continuing improvement of public health indicators, the widespread availability of vaccines, and the recognition that mask mandates have been replaced by personal decisions about when to wear masks throughout the week.
A mask optional policy still means that anyone may wear a mask at any time. Today, the decision to wear a face mask almost everywhere in the community is determined by personal perceptions of an individual’s age, vaccination status, risk tolerance, or underlying health conditions.
Vaccinations, air filtration, health checks and one-way masking mitigate risks for anyone attending Wesley. Coronavirus vaccines are recommended immunizations for anyone age six months or older. Annual boosters are available each fall. Wesley has improved air filtration in the sanctuary and common areas. Health checks for symptoms are now routine. One-way masking provides protection to the person wearing a mask. The worship service is available remotely. Together, these layers of protection are available to anyone at Wesley.
In January 2023, global health officials announced the pandemic has reached a transition point after a predicted winter wave from multiple variants and viruses did not materialize this year. Nationally, U.S. officials have announced in advance that remaining COVID-19 emergency declarations soon will be lifted. At the state and local levels, mask mandates indoors have been removed and public health indicators have improved this year.
Wesley’s experience with mask optional policies over the past year for weddings and funerals, for choral and music concerts, for community breakfasts and suppers, for fellowship time before and after worship, for many other forms of mission and ministry, all suggest that we are ready as a congregation and as a community to make masks optional at all times.
Additional COVID-19 resources are available from the CDC, Mass.gov, and City of Worcester including vaccination locations in the city and region. Dashboards for Worcester County and the City of Worcester provide updates. COVID-19 Community Levels are available from the CDC. At all levels, the CDC recommends staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, maintaining ventilation improvements, and following the guidance to protect yourself and others. People may choose to wear a mask at any time.
Worship services at Wesley are available live via Zoom and Wesley’s YouTube Channel.