News from the Road to Re-Opening        August 28, 2020

Ready to re-open? Not quite yet.

We’ve been saying CBS will re-open when it is safe and when we are ready. Until now, most of reports have focused on the readiness issue. But when will it be safe enough?

Actually, the safety decision is a series of smaller decisions about particular activities. A number of different things happen at CBS, and each has its own challenges, resulting in different criteria.  

For most activities (Shabbat services, minyan, events, meetings, adult education, etc.), we keep a close eye on three main indicators:  

  • The daily number of new COVID cases county-wide and in the primary ZIP codes served by CBS. 
  • The rate of increase or decline in new COVID cases in Pinellas County.  
  • Whether area hospitals are diverting patients to other hospitals due to demand for beds or ICU space.

We also look at whether hospitals are performing elective surgeries (as an indicator of expected demand for hospital rooms), as well as the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, along with the trend in that percentage.  

These are our primary measurements, but they don’t constitute all of our touchpoints. We obtain information from a number of sources on an ongoing basis. It’s possible that the indicators above might all be satisfactory, and we could still hesitate to re-open because of developments in other areas. Scientific guidance is subject to change, and we will always err on the side of caution.

We are able to approach these activities in this way because they don’t have a hard deadline – if we don’t open now, we can open later. But for some other activities, external deadlines have forced us to make early decisions about re-opening.  

High Holy Days – We announced six weeks ago that we will not be holding live, in-person services for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this year, and nothing has changed that plan. The external deadline there was the calendar. Not only did we have to make our best guess about whether the primary indicators mentioned above would be at satisfactory levels by Rosh Hashanah; we also had to make that guess early enough to give us time for alternate arrangements. 

Office – We opened the office on a limited basis on July 6. The sheer volume of work required to prepare for the High Holy Days required that we get our staff back to work in a collaborative environment as soon as possible. So we set about creating a tightly controlled environment where appointments are required, the number of people present at any time is limited, and masks must be worn at all times. We still encourage folks to take care of their business with the office by mail, email or phone whenever possible.

Religious School – The Youth & Education Committee has determined that classes will begin the year online, and will remain that way for an undetermined period. Much is still unknown about the effects of the coronavirus on children, and our students will also be impacted by developments in their secular schools. The Re-Entry Task Force will assist the Youth and Education Committee with readiness plans, but the determination of when and how to open the Religious School will be made by that committee.

Hopefully this update gives you some idea of how we are approaching this major decision. As always, we welcome any questions or comments.

Steve Shepard
Re-Entry Task Force Chair