Churches, day cares can reopen as of June 8

Places of worship and operators of child care facilities can now prepare to open in Phase 3 of Re-Open Saskatchewan.

Guidelines for these groups are included in the latest update of the Government of Saskatchewan’s plan to re-open the provincial economy. Last week it was announced that the target date for Phase 3 of Re-Open Saskatchewan would be Monday, June 8.

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Restaurants and licensed establishments, gyms and fitness facilities, places of worship and child care facilities are among the groups able to re-open in Phase 3. Personal service businesses that did not open in Phase 2 are also allowed to begin providing services. A list of these businesses is available in the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.

The initial guidelines for the re-opening of places of worship were developed in consultation with faith leaders. (A few examples of the churches in Weyburn are shown here)

Effective June 8, 2020, places of worship may resume services providing social distancing of two metres can be maintained between each individual household. The allowable occupancy is one-third of the defined occupancy rate of the facility to a maximum of 30 individuals for the initial stage of re-opening.

• Delivering services virtually or through remote delivery such as drive-in services is encouraged.

• Where possible, registration of participants is encouraged to effectively manage the number of individuals attending. Registration should be facilitated to discourage attendees from common-use items such as pens and pencils.

• Attendees who are medically vulnerable are strongly encouraged to delay their return to services and continue to participate in services online, where possible.

• Attendees, employees and volunteers are required to stay home if sick or symptomatic.

• Places of worship will be required to identify measures by which entry and exit is managed to ensure physical distancing is maintained. 

• Promote physical distancing by marking the directional flow of people through buildings and areas. Mark seating areas and post visual reminders to observe physical distancing.

• Individuals from the same household may be seated together and should remain in place once they are seated.

• Seating (or designated worship space) must be arranged so that physical distancing can be observed at all times. Consideration must be given to how people enter and exit pews and other seating areas. A minimum of two metres must be maintained between household groups.

• If multiple gatherings are held on a single day, the start and end times must allow those who attend one gathering to exit safely, avoiding contact with those arriving for the next gathering. Time is needed to clean and disinfect common surfaces between services.

• Dismissal of gatherings should be done in a way that supports physical distancing. 

• All ancillary events, such as social events, should be postponed for the immediate future.

• All physical contact, such as handshaking or passing objects between individuals, is not permitted. Ushers, greeters or other guest services must maintain social distancing and avoid physical contact with worshippers. 

• Microphones cannot be shared between individuals due to the difficulty of cleaning and disinfecting these devices. Minimize the number of attendees providing readings or performing other activities that would require the use of a microphone.

•Singing is a high-risk activity because the virus can be transmitted through saliva or respiratory droplets. One documented COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the spread of the virus to 87 per cent of choir attendees from one infected person. Therefore, singing is not recommended at this time. 

• Although not recommended, when singing, participants must wear masks.

• The celebration of communion raise specific challenges because of the possibility of inadvertently transmitting the virus. Faith communities centred on a communion ritual must exercise extreme caution if they wish to proceed with offering communion. Denominations or families of churches wishing to offer communion at this time will be required to develop protocols by which the communion can be offered in a way that safeguards the health of the communicants and celebrant. The use of a common cup is not permissible.

• Passing of offering baskets will not be permitted. Alternatives are encouraged, such as online giving options or a depository to accept offerings.

As restrictions on businesses and services are gradually lifted in the province, additional information continues to be added to the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan based on direction from public health officials and input from businesses and service providers.

In addition to the new guidelines for places of worship and child care facilities, other additions to the plan this week include:

• Updates to the guidelines for appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE)

• Updates to COVID-19 workplace information

• Updates to the personal care services guidelines

• Updates to the restaurants and licensed establishments guidelines

In addition, following are some updates on other work taking place to gradually re-open the province. Limited research activities will resume at universities In the near future, at the University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

These institutions, in collaboration with public health officials, have developed plans and procedures to ensure a safe environment for students and researchers. These plans include measures to ensure appropriate physical distancing, increased cleaning protocols and limited access to facilities.

Use of municipal parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and splash pads remain closed, but the use of greenspace is still allowed. Physical distancing must be maintained and activities must adhere to the public health order and guidelines in the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.

All businesses that are eligible to re-open must follow the guidelines in the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan and the current public health order. However, businesses are not required to open at this time and can determine when they are ready to open and operate in a safe manner.

Find the most up-to-date version of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan at www.saskatchewan.ca/re-open.