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COVID-19 Update 8/14/2020

Dear Members of our Beloved UUAA Community:

As many of you are aware, UUAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Team has been meeting consistently throughout the summer, following local and national trends, and discerning the best way forward this fall for our UUAA community.  Guiding us in this work has been Governor Whitmer’s Safe Start Plan for Michigan (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/whitmer/MI_SAFE_START_PLAN_689875_7.pdf), information emerging from our Washtenaw County Health Department (https://www.washtenaw.org/3108/Cases), and guidance from our denomination (https://www.uua.org/safe/pandemics/covid-19), among other resources.  

In support of the critical public health needs in our state - and in light of the high percentage of our community members who have age, family or health-related risk factors - UUAA will continue its current mode of virtually-focused operations through at least December 31, 2020.  

In addition to protecting our community, this plan will allow us to watch and learn from other institutions in the area - including local universities and school districts - as they gradually open up throughout the Fall. Our COVID-19 Advisory Team will continue to closely follow and assess the public health situation in Michigan and what may be permissible under the Michigan Safe Start Plan. 

Please note that outdoor gatherings of groups of 15 or less are still permissible on UUAA grounds. For more information, please read the Outdoor Use During the Pandemic Policy and use the outdoor space reservation form to request a space.

As noted above, there are many members who, due to various risk factors, will choose not to participate in-person even outdoors.  So it is critical that all UUAA groups and activities continue to plan for and provide virtual modes of participation until all of us can safely gather in-person again.  Our community’s commitment to accessibility requires us to do our best to not inadvertently exclude anyone because of health concerns. To reserve one of our congregation’s Zoom rooms for online meetings, visit: uuaa.org and click on “request a room” on the bottom of the page. 

As lay-led UUAA groups and activities consider their fall plans, please know that there are resources that can be drawn on.  Staff member Quiana Perkins, in her new role as Coordinator of Congregational Life, will be working with our lay-led UUAA groups in an advisory and support role.  Quiana can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  In addition, the COVID-19 Advisory Team continues to field specific questions from UUAA groups related to pandemic-era health and safety planning.  Questions for the COVID-19 Advisory Team can be directed to Executive Minister Cassandra Hartley at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Rev. Cassandra will ensure that your query reaches the Advisory Team.

Please take good care of yourselves – you are each beloved and dear to us and to our whole community.  Our annual ingathering (return from the summer) Water Communion Sunday service will be on Sunday, September 13, 2020.  We hope that you will mark your calendars, as we look toward our community more fully regathering (virtually) in a few weeks.

With much gratitude for your care and support of us, 

The Members of the UUAA COVID-19 Advisory Team: Jim Lee, Laura Bauman, Jim Marks, Tom Reischl, Cassandra Hartley, Quiana Perkins, & Manish Mishra-Marzetti

 

 

Congregational COVID-19 Survey

All of us in the UUAA community are struggling to cope with the many uncertainties in our lives right now. Included among those is the uncertainty of when we, as a community, can gather in-person again and what our lives might look like three months, six months, or a year from now. The UUAA COVID-19 Advisory Team recently completed surveying UUAA congregants about their concerns and preferred approaches to eventually re-opening the UUAA building. This is the executive summary of their findings.

The de-identified survey data is available following this link.

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF UUAA’s COVID-19 ADVISORY TEAM SURVEY – JUNE 2020

As the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor’s (UUAA’s) COVID-19 Advisory Team considers steps toward a limited re-opening, we invited the members and friends of our community to review a detailed list of resources related to congregational communities and responses to the pandemic. (Those resources continue to be available using this link.)

We also wanted to hear directly from you, the members and friends of our congregation, to get a better sense of your feelings, concerns, and desires in this regard. To that end, during the second half of May 2020, we invited you to complete a short survey sharing your input with us.

We are grateful that 246 members and friends of our community participated, providing a significant sample of the approximately 640+ adults in our community.  Rev. Manish offered a brief synopsis of our preliminary survey results during the May 31st Annual Meeting.  We are now able to share a more in-depth summary of the survey results with you, for the benefit of our entire community.

Overwhelmingly, over 96% of the respondents indicated that they plan to proceed cautiously when public activities are allowed to resume by state and public health officials. Over 56% of the respondents indicated that they personally have health or age-related considerations with respect to COVID-19; an additional 12% indicated ‘other’ related concerns, such as personally caring for elders who could be ‘at risk’ or caring for children, who could potentially transmit the virus. Over 90% of respondents felt that UUAA’s virtual/online activities and services are essential or helpful, with the majority, over 60% of respondents, deeming virtual access as ‘essential.’

In analyzing the comments, we noted a consistency in respondents wanting UUAA to follow the best scientific and public health guidance that is available, alongside a recognition that government officials may or may not be following the best available science, based on political considerations. Many respondents indicated, in a variety of ways, that virtual access to UUAA activities and services is ‘safe’ while doing anything in person entails risks to one’s personal health and the health of loved ones, in the absence of a vaccine or effective treatments for COVID-19.

We also heard that while connecting virtually with one another has tremendous value, many of us simultaneously miss the opportunity to physically be in person with community members. The inability to have coffee or a meal together, to share a hug or a smile in person, to sing together, are real and significant losses. Our Team members, likewise, recognize and feel the depth of these same losses.

In terms of potentially re-opening the grounds and/or buildings, your responses indicated a greater openness to outdoor small group gatherings, and a significantly higher expression of concern for indoor gatherings of any size. Comments indicated that respondents would prefer a strict application of social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, even for outdoor small group gatherings. You would want to know what the safety protocols are in advance and then have them uniformly and strictly applied. (FYI, the State of Michigan has consistently supported this kind of detailed and strict ‘safety planning’ during the pandemic.)

Even with the possibility of ‘safety planning,’ many respondents indicated that they would not feel comfortable attending any public events in person, whether it be a small group or large group gathering, until a vaccine or effective treatments for COVID-19 are developed. This requires all of us to be engaged in UUAA’s commitment to inclusion and accessibility; we collectively strive not to exclude anyone from the life of the congregation because of age or health-related factors. As a community, we will need to continue creating as many modalities of access to small and large group gatherings as we can.

The full, raw data of this survey (without any personally identifying data or comments) is appended to this Executive Summary.

ONGOING PLANNING AND REFLECTION – SUMMER 2020

There have, of course, been developments since early-to-mid May when our survey was developed and released.   First, the Unitarian Universalist Association, our denominational headquarters, has offered guidance and suggestions to all Unitarian Universalist congregations.  This guidance urges congregations to proceed slowly and cautiously for essentially the same reasons that many of you likewise urged caution in your survey responses.

Second, many of the geographic areas of our nation that re-opened early, even in part, or have been the site of large public demonstrations, have shown increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, indicating that substantial risk remains when people are in social situations with others. Indeed, there is currently some concern that Michigan’s infection rates may be back on the rise.

Third, information is in the process of developing related to how Ann Arbor area schools and our universities may choose to address the many issues that are tied to the possibility of resuming instruction in the fall. These developing details may usefully inform our approach for UUAA, as we also strive to incorporate the survey findings into our next steps.  We are fortunate that our community’s responses have been overwhelmingly in line with institutional trends in our region: i.e., proceeding with great caution.

The COVID-19 Advisory Team will continue to reflect on the input that our community has so generously provided. We thank you for that.

For now, our UUAA buildings and grounds remain ‘closed’ to in person public activity. Our Team will be exploring in the days ahead what protocols and procedures might make it possible for small group activities to occur outdoors, on the UUAA grounds. We will share updates with our community as that work and planning continues.

 

Thank You and Be Well,

UUAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Team are: Jim Lee, Laura Bauman, Jim Marks, Tom Reischl, Lindasusan Ulrich, Cassandra Hartley, Quiana Perkins, and Manish Mishra-Marzetti.