Staying Safe this Holiday Season
Dear Faith-Based Community Leaders: 
The Blue Ridge Health District (formerly Thomas Jefferson Health District) is working with community leaders across the District to mitigate and manage an increase of 3% in the positivity rate over the past two weeks. Health districts in neighboring states are experiencing increases that seriously compromise the ability of hospitals and staff to treat patients successfully.* On December 10, Governor Northam has revised state Executive Order 72 to restrict the size of gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Unfortunately, religious services, including weekly services, funerals, and wedding ceremonies can further the spread of COVID-19 and harm not only of participants but also those with whom they subsequently come into contact. For this reason, we request that you take extra precautions this holiday season and recommend no-contact or virtual services to reduce your congregants’ risk of exposure. 
  1. Individuals attending religious services must be at least six feet apart when seated and must practice proper physical distancing at all times. Family members may be seated together.
  2. Mark seating and common areas where attendees may congregate in six-foot increments to maintain physical distancing between persons who are not family members.
  3. When possible, any items used to distribute food or beverages (such as communion) should be disposable.
  4. Thorough cleaning and disinfection of high-contact surfaces must be conducted prior to any religious service.

  1. Encourage congregants to participate in drive-in services, or virtually via livestream and online gatherings.
  2. Community members over age 60 with chronic medical conditions, or with compromised immune systems, or anyone who is sick or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should avoid attending gatherings.
  3. Face masks help to prevent the spread of the virus. everyone attending services to wear face masks at all times when indoors and when unable to maintain six-feet of distance outdoors.

  • Create ventilation using fans, open windows, and air filtration systems.
  • Consider using a projector to display sacred texts, scriptures, and songs to eliminate the use of common, shared items (books, hymnals).
  • Make hand sanitizer readily available.
  • Seek creative ways to keep music leaders at safe social distances and when possible, limit the number of sung pieces.
  • Ask congregants to stay home if they do not feel well or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • Consider offering shorter services, which reduces the overall exposure to participants.

If you need resources or more information, please do not hesitate to call our hotline at 434-972-6261 (open M-F from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.). You can also find the latest local data on the BRHD COVID-19 Data Dashboard.