Alexandria, VA

Houses of worship are seen as one of the highest-risk places to congregate during the pandemic, but as locations start to reopen under Phase 3 the city has put together a guide for helping local churches and religious institutions to reopen safely.

For religious organizations and nonprofits, the city website said content for emails to faith-based groups are being prepared with information — including a digestible synthesis of CDC and Virginia Department of Health data.

The Alexandria Health Department will also hold phone office hours to troubleshoot individual reopening challenges different churches or organizations might be facing. The department already has a general COVID-19 hotline at 703 745 4988, which is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. during weekdays.

One of the top suggestions, the city said, is to enroll in the voluntary safety training program ALX Promise.

The goal, the city said, is to prevent outbreaks at these locations. Since the pandemic started, many local churches have moved to online services. Churches have been identified nationwide as outbreak sites, and some of the city’s first identified cases were at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Other parts of the city’s strategic framework include:

  • Develop best-practice guidance and produce materials that are easily digestible, and communicate state requirements for businesses and other facilities in multiple languages; and disseminate to businesses, nonprofits and faith groups for printing and display.
  • Create and implement a voluntary safety training program (ALX Promise) for accreditation, analyzing the role ALX Promise plays in preventing complaints to AHD; launch extensive outreach to West End and minority-owned businesses; work with community groups to promote the program; hand deliver required signage and make follow-up phone calls; and promote the program and accredited businesses through the news media, including in Spanish.
  • Communicate regularly with targeted groups through phone calls or virtual town halls to answer staff or resident questions; develop content for weekly emails to faith-based and nonprofit groups; and launch AHD phone hours for faith groups to troubleshoot reopening challenges.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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