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    The Upper New York Conference of The United Methodist Church


    about

    Church COVID 19 Guidelines

    Editor's note: The following information was updated and shared with the Upper New York Conference on August 10, 2021.

    The CDC has recently issued revised guidelines for in person gatherings due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. These revised guidelines include the recommendation that vaccinated and unvaccinated persons in areas with high infection rates wear masks when gathering indoors. Because this recommendation would apply to worship and other church gatherings, churches are advised to consult their county listing on the CDC webpage. This can be found here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view.

    PLEASE NOTE: THIS NEW GUIDANCE MODIFIES THE GUIDANCE OFFERED BELOW IN THAT ALL PERSONS, INCLUDING VACCINATED AND UNVACCINATED, ARE NOW RECOMMENDED TO WEAR MASKS WHEN GATHERING INDOORS. THE CDC AND NYS HAVE NOT OFFERED NEW GUIDANCE REGARDING SOCIAL DISTANCING OR SURFACE DISINFECTION AT THIS TIME.

    Having reached 70% vaccination one-dose rate for persons 18 and older, NYS has suspended many pandemic restrictions. The CDC guidelines related to unvaccinated persons remain in effect. For local churches, this means:

    1. Local churches need no longer enforce certain restrictions:
    • Social gathering limits (limits on numbers of persons who may gather at same time);
    • Capacity restrictions (number of persons allowable in a space.  Note: fire code limitations remain in effect.);
    • Social distancing (distance between persons, including for singing);
    • Health screening (questions required before entering a building or activity); and 
    • Pandemic-related cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

    The lifting of restrictions applies to all activities held in church buildings and elsewhere, including worship, fellowship time, meetings, and small groups.  

    When food and drink are offered, please remember to regularly clean and sanitize surfaces, containers, utensils, and dishes. Consider taking precautions to minimize self-service offerings and instead have designated servers distribute food and drink. 

    For Sunday School and children's activities, try to encourage participants under 12 to wear masks as much as possible. Sanitize commonly used surfaces and tools (e.g. scissors). Encourage good handwashing practices. Ask parents to keep children at home if anyone is experiencing symptoms of illness.

    2. Unvaccinated persons should continue to wear masks and social distance from other persons during all church activities, including worship, fellowship time, meetings, and small groups. To ensure the safety of unvaccinated persons, churches may wish to: 

    • Option #1 - Separate Unvaccinated Seating Areas: in addition to mask wearing and social distancing, those seated in this area would need to be at least 12 feet away from the vaccinated seating area when singing. 
    • Option #2 - Outdoor Worship: Masks would only need to be worn when moving about the space, but 12 feet of physical distance between seated worshippers (except members of the same household) would be required when singing. Outdoor worship gatherings can be as large as 250 persons so long as physical distancing requirements are met.
    • Option #3 - All Mask and Social Distance: All individuals, regardless of vaccination status, would continue to wear masks and maintain 12 feet of physical distance when singing. 

    If you have any questions involving these guidelines, feel free to contact the COVID-19 response team of the UNY Conference via phone at (315) 898-2012 and email at covid-19response@unyumc.org.


    With more than 134,000 members, the Upper New York Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church comprises 865 local churches and 85 new faith communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our mission is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."