Updated information for church COVID risk assessments

Here’s my regular update on what the picture is looking like in terms of COVID-19 to help church leaders think through their risk assessments when planning for church services.

The most important and encouraging information is that the growth in cases seems to have slowed a little as the Euros’ effect seems to be easing off. This Monday the growth rate compared to last Monday was 15.8% compared to Sunday’s figures which were a 51% increase on the previous Sunday and Saturday which saw a 68.9% increase.

This is encouraging but we will need to keep an eye on the figures, especially when we get to next weekend as we will then start to see if the stage 4 unlocking has had an impact. I must admit to being a little troubled by the newspaper images of night clubs reopening in the early hours of Monday morning. At the same time there will be some downward pressure on cases through increased vaccination with 68.5% of adults now fully vaccinated.

Here’s the week on week increase which is currently at 41.18%.

We have also emphasised that it isn’t just the case numbers which matter but how they feed into serious illness and hospital admission. There is usually a ten day lag in reporting on this. As we can see, the high growth of a couple of weeks back has translated into exponential growth in admissions.

Encouragingly, we are continuing to see the % of admissions to cases falling meaning that if you do catch COVID you are much less likely to be seriously ill and require hospital treatment than earlier in the year, this has been the primary success story of vaccination.

I think that the national data if these trends continue should prove reassuring for those who are particularly anxious about church reopening.  However, we really do need the trends to continue and it will be a little while yet before cases actually start to fall. 

In terms of the risk of church services being responsible for transmission, it is important to look at the local situation as well as the national situation. So, here is some more local case information for Rochester, Buttershaw (Bradford) and Bearwood (West Midlands) on case prevalence

Bearwood, West Midlands 656 people per 100,000 are calculated to have contracted COVID in the last 7 days.

Buttershaw, Bradford – 634 per 100,00

Rochester, Kent – 199 per 100,000

This means that transmission risk is lower in Rochester although significantly high and this should be factored into decisions and risk mitigation when singing.

My updated risk assessment would be similar for all three contexts though I’m hoping to be able to reduce risks 4 and 5 from high to moderate within a week or two if we continue to see improving case numbers.  Don’t forget to produce risk assessments that look at each part of your building in use.

I believe that the risk of actually causing infection spread should be moderate but that’s on the assumption that churches are continuing to follow a lot of the relevant guidance, indeed in churches continuing a strict social distancing and masking policy, the risk is probably low. However, case prevalence means that churches which are lifting all restrictions are likely to be high risk. Don’t forget that as we’ve seen with the football example that the risk is not just at the venue but what happens around it such as post service mingling and use of public transport to get to meetings.

 IDRisk DescriptionProbability
1Risk of causing COVID infection spreadModerate
2Risk of invalidating insuranceModerate to High
3Risk of breaching H&S LawModerate
4Risk of increased congregation anxietyHigh
5Risk of creating a bad witness to the communityHigh

I hope you are finding these updates helpful. It is frustrating and time consuming to be having to do these assessments but it is a good thing as we seek to love our church family, the community and our Lord and bring honour to his name.