A Note from the LPC Door Opening Team
(Updated 17 May 2021 WEB)
Good news continues. Local COVID data rates continue to plummet. For the first time since Maryland has tracked the COVID cases by zip code, two of the three primary LPC zip codes have seen fewer than 10 new cases over a 7 day period. (See the updated graph below.) As more Maryland citizens are receiving their vaccinations, it reasonable to think that this good news will continue. More than half of Maryland citizens have received their vaccine so far. Many folk at LPC have already been vaccinated; if you have not done so, I encourage you to get your vaccine scheduled.
As I am sure you have already seen, the CDC guidance is that those who have been fully vaccinated can largely return to normal activities. Maryland and PG County responded quickly by adjusting COVID restrictions. On 14 May, the PG County executive made a press release that allows venues to open back up to full capacity with out a social distancing requirement. In PG County, mask wear is still mandated for indoor venues.
The DOT is meeting on 18 May to develop recommendations that will be presented to session for adjusting LPC re-opening plans.
LPC will be starting in person worship on 23 May. Worship services will start at 9:30AM. We are meeting OUTDOORS, under the pin oak by the manse.
IDL who also uses the building for worship, has started meeting on Sundays for INDOOR face-to-face worship.
Given that IDL is meeting for Sunday worship indoors, and we know more about the relative COVID risks, we no longer require folk to record entry/exit in the LPC building. So, next time you enter the building - the sign-in sheet in the narthex will be gone.
Below, here is a summary of what the Door Opening Team (DOT) has done to date:
In the spring of 2020, when the COVID pandemic came to Maryland and public schools were closed, the Laurel Presbyterian Church (LPC) Session voted to suspend corporate worship to protect the congregation. This was done prior to the order from Governor Hogan that suspended religious gatherings, as well as all non-essential business in Maryland. Soon after, LPC began offering weekly worship videos and Zoom prayer meetings in lieu of our traditional in-person Sunday worship, and continues to do so.
After the COVID and hospitalization rates began to drop and testing became more widely available, Maryland and Prince George’s County began to phase in commercial, recreational, and religious activity. During this time, the LPC session stood up a Door Opening Team (DOT) to develop recommendations for how LPC can operate safely during the current COVID pandemic, how LPC can eventually re-open its facility for face-to-face corporate worship, and how it can help the Laurel neighbors in these difficult times.
Through late summer and early fall of 2020, the DOT continued to meet every week to do its work. Since then, we are meeting less frequently, as much of the planning has been completed. By and large, thanks to the work of the LPC Property Committee, the LPC facility work has been completed and is ready to indoor worship. We are now waiting for the the local COVID rates to come down enough to permit indoor worship.
A short summary of our efforts to date includes:
- Monitoring Maryland and PG County COVID-related closure and opening announcements;
- Monitoring the COVID infection rates in the LPC region. (See attachment);
- Developing COVID safety recommendations for restricted use of the church building – that allows for maintenance and limited administrative activity;
- Working to re-open a County-licensed Child Care center at LPC. After many months of working with the Child Care through long PG-Co bureaucratic delays, we are seeing fruits of our labor: a license to re-open has been granted, and students are being signed up. Julie Bertak is the LPC liaison with the day care center.
- Developed an overarching framework for determining when and how LPC can consider reopening for indoor worship. This was approved by Session on 28 June (See attachment);
- Developed LPC Indoor Worship COVID Safety Guidelines, as required by the above-mentioned framework for re-opening. This was approved by LPC Session on 04 August (See attachment);
- Working with the LPC Property Committee, who during the winter added touches faucets to the LPC bathrooms, and ordered and installed hand sanitizer dispensers;
- Coordinating with the LPC Worship and Music Committee, and members of the congregation, to offer outdoor prayer and fellowship opportunities during fair weather.
DOT Reference Documents:
To see Session-Approved Indoor Worship Safety Guidelines: click here --> LPC Safety Guide
Submitted by Walt Bowen
Chairman of the Door Opening Team
on behalf of your DOT: Andy Kirkham, Dot Brownlie, Monica Anthony, Kevin Winters, Amy Schacht