Tips & Info Regarding How to Deal with Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Local Churches

UPDATED TIPS for churches to use in suspending worship services/church activities in light of Gov. Abbott's executive order are below
The World Health Organization has officially classified the COVID-19 coronavirus as a global pandemic. More and more organizations such as schools (elementary up to universities and colleges), businesses and even professional sports leagues and entertainment groups are suspending or altering their operations. The local churches of the Central Texas Conference UMC are not immune to this reality and many have questions as to the best course of action during this time. The following contains information about and tips to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Brief History
The first cases of Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, were diagnosed in China in December 2019. Since then, the illness with pneumonia-type symptoms, has spread to 37 nations to-date, including countries such as the United States where United Methodists reside and attend church. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website ( the first positive test of COVID-19 has been confirmed as of March 4 in Fort Bend County.
While places where people gather in close proximity, such as worship services, may be vulnerable, there are simple steps to take to limit risks, many of which are steps of which we all practice during cold & flu season. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) frequent hand washing and anyone feeling unwell staying home and seeking medical care are paramount in efforts to control the spread of this disease.
What is Coronavirus?
  • Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a lung (respiratory) illness.

What are the main symptoms?
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

How does coronavirus spread?
  • Coronavirus can be spread in several ways, but primarily is spread person-to-person or by touching an infected object and then touching your face (nose, mouth, eyes). Click here for more information from the CDC.

Tips for preventing COVID-19 from WHO include:
  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Use soap and water for 20-30 seconds and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Maintain social distancing. Keep approximately three feet (one yard) between yourself and anyone who is sneezing and coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – especially with your bare hands. Viruses can live on surfaces, where your hands may touch. Once on your hands, the virus may enter your body.
  • Practice respiratory hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately.
  • If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Call ahead for an appointment to limit your exposure to others.
  • Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider. Stay up-to-date on Coronavirus by checking reliable sources, such as the Texas Department of State Health Services, WHO, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Global Health Tracker.

General tips for the local church to help control the spread of infectious diseases during worship services.
  • Encourage staff, members and visitors to protect their personal health.
  • Post the primary signs and symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough, shortness of breath
  • Place alcohol based hand sanitizing stations at the main entrances and in several other high traffic locations throughout your building and sanctuary
  • Refrain from celebrating Holy Communion for a few weeks. If you do observe the sacrament, then use individual communion cups rather than intinction during communion; limit the number of people who handle the communion elements (before and during the service); consider postponing communion for a couple of weeks;
  • Limit greeting times and refrain from personal contact such as handshakes or hugs during greetings - perhaps a bow, forearm bump or a big smile instead 
  • Consider putting anti-bacterial soaps in the restrooms
  • Extra facial tissue (Kleenex) and wastebaskets throughout the facility
  • Remind folks to wash their hands and cover all coughs and sneezes
  • Encourage those who aren't feeling well to stay home.
  • Regularly wipe down with disinfectants surfaces that are touched regularly and often (i.e. elevator push buttons, doorknobs, door push plates and bars, copy machine, group printers, refrigerator door handles, microwaves, computer keyboards, desktops, phones, remote controls, pews, chairs).

Tips for Temporarily Suspending Worship Services:
  • In keeping with Gov. Abbott's executive order effective midnight, March 20, regular, in-person worship is to be suspended. 
  • Give as much notice as possible;
  • Offer internet worship as an alternative;
  • Provide regular updates for your congregation and community about when regular services will resume.
  • Visit for tips and information on online worship and ministries.

What should someone do if they suspect they have coronavirus? According to the Texas Health Resources website, persons who show symptoms should…
  • Stay home except to get medical care, call your doctor right away for advice and minimize contact with others
  • If you have shortness of breath, call 911 immediately
  • If you do not have a doctor, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355)
For more information, visit the CDC website at

How to help
The United Methodist Church, through UMCOR, has been helping with the crisis in China since early February when the United Methodist agency issued an emergency grant to an organization working to limit the spread of Coronavirus in China.
Funding for all continued assistance is being provided through UMCOR’s Global Health fund. Learn more, including how to give to Advance #3021770, at