Resources and recommendations on the coronavirus COVID-19
The following information about COVID-19 is offered by Brethren Disaster Ministries as a resource to help Brethren congregations and members better understand the outbreak and ways to respond. Also provided are links to trusted websites to visit frequently for updates and suggestions. Contact Brethren Disaster Ministries at 800-451-4407 or explore these web pages for more about the disaster relief work of the Church of the Brethren.
For ministry resources related to the pandemic, please go to www.brethren.org/discipleshipmin/resources.html
Resources in English - Español - Kreyòl - Français - ASL
The current outbreak of the respiratory illness that is caused by a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China at the end of December 2019. The disease that the virus causes is named COVID-19. On Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international health emergency and on March 11 it made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a global pandemic, meaning that is occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the global population. On Jan.31, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump declared a National Emergency on March 13.
The numbers of people in the U.S. and around the world is growing daily. To find information about the incidence of coronavirus in your particular area, or the area of a loved one, it is best to stay tuned to your local and state health department and government sites.
This is a new virus and health officials and researchers are learning as much as they can about it, how it is spread, and how to treat it. There is a worldwide effort to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. As more is known about COVID-19, information sources are being constantly updated.
Much of the information, precautions, and resources listed here also apply to the prevention of influenza and other illnesses, which are more common in the US but can also be deadly.
On March 15, 2020, the CDC recommended that for the next 8 weeks, organizers should cancel or postpone in-person mass gatherings and large community events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the U.S. Such gatherings might include concerts, festivals, conferences or sporting events.
Social distancing is key to decreasing the rate at which the coronavirus is spread. Many state and local jurisdictions have issued guidelines or mandates the go beyond the CDC recommendations, in some cases banning gatherings entirely. Please monitor your local and state government websites and press releases to be informed of guidelines and restrictions for your area.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) - www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Includes extensive information on COVID-19 in the US and globally, with many graphics, downloadable posters, videos, and answers to frequently asked questions.
- World Health Organization (WHO) - www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Includes extensive information about COVID-19 and how the international community is responding, with resources including Q&As, graphics, and easy-to-understand videos. This site also tracks and addresses myths about the virus.
See "Beware of coronavirus scams" below for references to false or misleading information.
Guidance for families and individuals
Symptoms of COVID-19 infection
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases. So far, about 80 percent of the cases are mild.
The following symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure:
- Fever (if you don’t have a fever, you probably don’t have COVID-19)
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath, sometimes leading to pneumonia
Anyone experiencing these symptoms, especially if you may have come in contact with someone who is ill or may have been exposed, should seek medical attention. Follow the guidelines of your local health authorities to do so. If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include, but are not limited to, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion or inability to arouse; and bluish lips or face.
Who is at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19?
Older people and people with severe chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, are at higher risk of developing more serious illness from COVID-19. Based on available evidence, children do not appear to be at higher risk than adults and those who do contract the virus generally have more mild symptoms. It is important to note that this is a new virus and knowledge about it is evolving.
What to do if you are at higher risk:
- Stay at home as much as possible.
- Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.
- When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact, and wash your hands often.
- Avoid crowds.
What should you do to avoid infection?
The virus is thought to spread mainly through person-to-person contact, between people who are in close proximity with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into their lungs.
The droplets may also be left behind on surfaces that an infected person has touched. It is not known how long this virus can live on surfaces, but if it behaves like other coronaviruses it could be anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Although this is not thought to be the main way the virus is spread, surfaces that may be infected should be avoided (if in public) or cleaned.
The most effective ways to lessen the chance of infection are social distancing (especially for those at high risk and from anyone exhibiting symptoms), hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face (unless your hands are clean), and vigilance in cleaning your surroundings (home, work, etc.).
The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). When possible, distance yourself from anyone exhibiting symptoms of illness and wash your hands as soon as possible after contact with an ill person.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes to sing twice through the “Happy Birthday” song.
- Wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Both soap and water, and alcohol strip the virus of it outer coating, killing it.
- Wash all surfaces of hands and wrists, including between fingers, under fingernails, and the backs of your hands.
- Dry hands thoroughly, preferably with paper towels, and throw paper towels into a waste bin (preferably a closed bin).
Avoid touching your face
Most people are unaware of how often they touch their face, including eyes, nose, and mouth. It could be as many as 200 times a day. If an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets containing the virus may land on your hands. Or you may pick up the virus from a surface where the droplets fell. Touching your face with those unwashed hands will increase the chances of contracting the virus. Always wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer before touching any part of your face.
Good cleaning practices
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. Remember to clean items such as cell phones, iPads, and other technology that is used frequently and/or shared. Avoid placing these objects on unwashed surfaces, particularly in public spaces.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, after
- touching public surfaces,
- using the restroom,
- touching pets, especially those who have been outdoors,
- shaking hands,
- blowing your nose or coughing,
- being within a close distance (generally 6 feet) of someone who is coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose, and
- returning to your home
- Wash your hands before eating.
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it because you have a high-risk status. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms, in order to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
What to do if you or someone you care for is sick
- Stay at home when you are sick, except to get medical care, to avoid spreading your illness to others.
- Wash your hands frequently!
- If you think you may have come in contact with someone with COVID-19 or have contracted the disease, follow guidelines from your local health authorities regarding isolation or quarantine. There are no medicines created specifically for COVID-19 infections. So far about 80 percent of infections have been mild. A mild case will recover by using the same regimen for other similar types of infections: drink plenty of fluids, get rest and take pain and fever medicines.
- If your condition worsens, you may need to seek medical care. Call your medical provider and/or follow the guidance of local health authorities regarding when and how to seek medical assistance. There may be a call-in center or a particular location or procedure for testing in your area. To reduce the chances of infecting other people, do not just show up at a local health facility such as hospital or clinic or your doctor’s office.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a trash receptacle, preferably one that is covered.
- If no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, making sure not to aim to the floor or another surface. Remember that your elbow and/or shirt now contains infected droplets so avoid touching that area and clean it as soon as possible.
- Disinfect frequently-used surfaces and wash garments, towels, and bedding often. Do not share towels, eating utensils, or cups. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html
- When caring for an ill person, wash your hands as often as possible. If the patient is not able to wear a facemask, you should wear one when in close contact with that person, and then throw the mask away in a closed bin. Change and wash any clothing that may have become infected. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands. See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html#precautions for additional information.
- CDC travel updates are at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/ and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html .
- When traveling, observe the same hygiene practices that you would use at home. Be diligent about washing hands and wiping off public surfaces that are used by many people. On airplanes, pay particular attention to wiping off tray tables and surfaces in restrooms. It is suggested to use hand sanitizer even after washing your hands in the restroom.
- For travel within the U.S., go to
- For international travel, pay close attention to travel advisories listed by the US State Department. Go to travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html. As the coronavirus has spread, travel restrictions and recommendations have become more common. The CDC is tracking these by country at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/map-and-travel-notices.html
- Expect delays and extra screenings as the virus continues to spread, particularly if you have traveled to or through a high-risk country. See www.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
- Depending on your travel history, you will be asked to stay home for a period of 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread or ongoing community spread (Level 3 Travel Health Notice). See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/after-travel-precautions.html. Travel from certain countries is even more restricted, particularly for foreign nationals. See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html.
- If you are sick upon your return to the US, especially if you traveled through a country affected by COVID-19, follow the guidelines from the CDC at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/faqs.html.
Resources for coping with and understanding the coronavirus and COVID-19
Our prayer for families facing this challenging time is that they will find ways to connect in meaningful ways. We ask you to remember this is not a time to expect perfection. It will be hard, but we remain hopeful that families can navigate this new environment with success. Working from home may be new, kids schooling at home may be new, feeling stressed from the unknowns is normal and the combination of all three puts an ever greater emphasis on just taking it one day at a time. You are doing a great job!
Children's Disaster Services staff has been reviewing resources and selecting ones that we feel are most beneficial to share to help families feel connected and successful. You will find below our latest suggestions.
If you have access to Facebook, Children’s Disaster Services has a Facebook page and we have been regularly sharing new resources there so, for the latest updates, we encourage you to like us on Facebook.
- Activities to do with kids (from Children's Disaster Services)
- Livestream Recess options to engage in play
- Daily activity and animal education video
- Amazon has free audio books through the pandemic for kids
- Time to Come in Bear: A children’s story about social distancing
- Q&A resource for families
- University Of Michigan Medicine – Q & A Video Format – Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician brings lots of tips to keep you and your kids on track
- Caring for Children: Tips to keep children healthy while school’s out
- Talking with Kids about coronavirus
- Just for Kids: A Comic exploring the Coronavirus (NPR)
- Downloadable & printable book/workbook (in multiple languages) to help younger children work through their emotions about the coronavirus and COVID-19
- Printable coronavirus information sheet (WHO)
- Tips for parents on media coverage (courtesy of CLDR and The National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Websites offering free educational activities
Mental health resources
Centers for Disease Control
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has many resources to help people cope with stress.
- Tips for social distancing, quarantine, and isolation during an infectious disease outbreak
- Coping with stress during infectious disease outbreaks (available for free PDF download)
Disaster Distress Helpline
- Toll-free number 1-800-985-5990 (English and Spanish)
- SMS: text TalkWIthUs or Hablamos to 66746
- TTY: 1-800-846-8517
- www.disasterdistress.samhsa.gov or www.samhsa.gov/find-help/disaster-distress-helpline/espanol
Guidance for church leaders and congregations
A COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time. Depending on the severity of the outbreak, public health officials may recommend community actions designed to limit exposure to COVID-19. Officials may ask you to modify, postpone, or cancel religious services or events for the safety and well-being of your staff, congregation, and the community. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed some useful tools for the faith community as it responds to COVID-19: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations.
Create an emergency plan for your congregation
Resources for creating a "Church Emergency Management Plan"
All links are PDF files.
- Brethren Disaster Ministries' "Church Emergency Management Plan" checklist
- A "Public Health Planning Guide for Faith Communities" from Wheaton College
- "Church Emergency Plan" recommendations from Mennonite Mutual Insurance Company
- An "Emergency Plan Template for Faith Based Organizations" from Knox County, Tennessee
- A "Guide for Developing High Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship," provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Plan ahead so there is no uncertainty about policies, actions, lines of authority, etc., during a crisis. Knowing what to do can make the difference between calm and chaos. While concentrating on the coronavirus, many of these points will be relevant to other types of crises as well.
- Review or create your church’s “Emergency Guidelines” to establish lines of authority regarding decision-making and roles and responsibilities during any crisis situation. Define the leadership structure. Consider things such as:
- Who creates and approves documents related to the plan?
- What is the communication strategy about the plan and who will be the communicator of the plan? Who will communicate during a crisis? A clear, transparent, and comprehensive communication strategy will create trust and reassurance within your faith family.
- Develop methods of contacting the members of the community with important messages related to the current situation (a phone tree, email list, texting, social networking, etc.)
- Who makes decisions regarding whether to hold worship services and events?
- Who is responsible for making sure hygiene is maintained on a regular basis? For example, who will clean frequently-touched surfaces in your church building when the usual custodian is not there?
- What is the procedure for someone who is ill but wants to attend a service? Determine what messaging to provide the congregation regarding when they should self-isolate in order to avoid spreading the virus (or other contagious illnesses) to others in the church, particularly those who are at high risk.
- Decide whether to continue to offer meeting space for groups other than your congregation during the health crisis. How will you manage proper hygiene if you allow outside groups to continue using your church building?
- Determine ways to support those who may become ill or who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus, or those whose support system is interrupted by the virus.
- Identify members of the congregation who may be high-risk or otherwise vulnerable and who may need special assistance. This may include church members who live alone, have limited resources, who already have difficult health situations themselves or within their families, etc.
- Develop a support network for those who are quarantined in their homes. This network may ssist with food, supplies, etc.
- Develop plans in case essential church staff or congregation members cannot fulfill their responsibilities.
- Consider how to support families who may need childcare if schools or regular daycare facilities are closed.
- Determine ways to support church staff and lay leader who take on large burdens during the crisis.
- Encourage and plan for self-care.
- Provide guidelines for ways to serve church members that do not put staff and lay leaders at risk. For example, use phone calls or virtual contact (Skype, Zoom, etc.) rather than visitation when a member is ill.
- Provide a process by which staff and lay leaders can express their personal concerns regarding their own or their family’s risk of contracting a contagious disease.
- Provide the congregation with vetted information and resources on important messages related to coronavirus. This will provide needed information, counteract misinformation, and calm fears. For accurate and up-to date messages and resources, rely on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC - www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov), the World Health Organization (WHO - www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus) and your local and state health authorities. For printable resources and videos go to www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public and www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/.
- Consider ways your congregation can put non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) into place to help prevent illness. Some examples include:
- Keep surfaces clean with disinfectant or disinfectant wipes. Wipe down everything commonly touched by church goers like door handles, pew tops, and railings.
- Provide hand sanitizer in easily accessible areas of the church building.
- Place tissues in every pew.
- Encourage people to wash their hands and post reminder signs throughout the church. See www.cdc.gov/handwashing/materials.html.
- Consider whether to cancel meetings or gatherings (such as carry-in meals) when the threat of sickness is strong.
- Consider how to modify worship practices that may cause germs to spread.
- Encourage non-contact greeting and social distancing. Officials suggest staying six feet from a person who shows signs of illness.
- Encourage church members to communicate their personal comfort level regarding contact and social distancing with other people during church activities so they still feel they can attend. This may involve leaving a large distance within pews or exiting a worship service without socializing. Encourage others to respect those comfort levels.
- Revise communion practices. Use individual cups, use tongs to deliver bread, etc. Or if necessary cancel communion services.
- Place offering plates in a central place near the entrance to the sanctuary so that they do not have to be passed hand-to-hand.
- Determine whether to continue children’s sermons, Sunday school, nursery care, coffee hours, and other practices that may bring people close together. If you decide to continue such events, consider what could be done to ensure an elevated level of hygiene and/or social distancing.
- If the threat of the virus increases significantly in your area, consider having only one entry point to the building and require hand sanitizing of each person who enters. If the threat is very high but you do not want to cancel services, screen people for illness. The extent of the screening would be up to each congregation, unless otherwise dictated by health authorities.
- If services will be canceled, determine an alternative so that the faith community will still be fed spiritually and emotionally:
- Create ways to share your services virtually. Options include conference calls, Facebook Live, Zoom, Skype, YouTube Live, and others. See blog.capterra.com/a-beginners-guide-to-church-live-streaming.
- If this proves difficult, find another Church of the Brethren that is broadcasting its services and join them in worship. Your district leaders may be able to provide information on this.
- Establish networks outside the congregation to either provide or obtain assistance if the coronavirus affects your community. This might include other local churches both within the Church of the Brethren and outside of the denomination, social services, local organizations, local government (including the health department), emergency services, health facilities, and others.
- Prioritize spiritual care, including pastoral care, and opportunities for prayer and emotional support for your church family. Identify individuals in addition to the pastor and staff who can assist with this, because the need may become great. There are many ways that this can be done including by personal visit (if there is no risk of disease transmission), emails, texts, phone calls, virtual meetings, etc.
Beware of coronavirus scams
Be vigilant! As often happens, scammers are trying to take advantage of anxiety and fear surrounding COVID-19. Remember—there is currently no vaccine or miracle cure to prevent or cure COVID-19. Do not be fooled by anyone offering a cure. Always make sure to check your source of information.
- Stick to trusted sources, such as those listed above and your state and county health departments as well as your own physicion for up-to-date and verified information.
- WHO has a webpage devoted to scams that may say they are coming from WHO. This good advice applies to a wider range of scams also. Go to www.who.int/about/communications/cyber-security.
- The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA, www.cisa.gov) has information on avoiding scams and phishing emails:
- Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. See "Using Caution with Email Attachments" and "Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Scams" for more information.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission website for information on scammers and information on donating to charities.