Coronavirus Disaster Response
I was on an UMCOR Conference Disaster Response Coordinator (CDRC) conference call this afternoon to discuss COVID-19 and our response to the current pandemic. COVID-19 as we have all heard by now is a respiratory infection that starts in the upper respiratory system and then spreads to the lower system, the lungs. The number of cases will continue to grow every day for some number of weeks. Vast number of Americans must continue to get tested and the results collected.
We have trained Early Response Teams (ERTs) in all 10 of our Districts who may be available to assist with the need(s) of our churches, congregations and communities. Although our ERTs have responded to other natural disasters such as flooding and tornados, they have not deployed to assist with anything like this pandemic.
But I can tell you from what we were told today:
- The best chemical(s) to use to clean surfaces are Clorox bleach and Lysol. The virus will stay alive on non-porous (sealed surfaces) for multiple days. It will not live on porous surfaces.
- When cleaning areas you should use the following personal protective equipment (PPE) -- gloves and a face mask (N-95). A protective suit is not normally needed unless you have an area that has been severely contaminated.
- Hand washing with soap for twenty (20) seconds is critical, along with not touching your face or eyes.
UMCOR's recommendation was that we should not continue life as we lived previously. We need to follow the guidelines for social distancing. The current estimate is that the virus can stay airborne about 3 hours. There is new evidence to show that the high-risk population could be starting with people in their mid-50s, which is lower than previously stated.
UMCOR's Executive Director Lara Martin, who holds a masters degree in public health, said that whenever possible, we worship services should be suspended in favor of some kind of online broadcasting to eliminate contact that could spread the virus. Citing the "Do Good" and "Do No Harm" core values, she said she believes that by holding services at this time, churches risk doing harm.