Following Rules in Phase 2

The Corona Times – July 13, 2020

by Rhonda Gunter

Photo of Jan Graham and Beth Ellis enjoying a meal

Since North Carolina moved into Phase 2 of its Covid-19 guidelines the first of June, some restrictions have eased.  Those most affecting me apply to restaurants, church, and beauty salons.  And while I can now dine in now rather than get take-out, have face-to-face Worship services at church, and can (finally!) get a haircut, I recognize that there are still limitations we should abide by while Covid-19 numbers are high and getting higher in NC.  A spike was predicted as more people venture out and stop being careful. Like others, I have “quarantine fatigue,” but I remind myself I still have to follow the rules.  We would certainly like to be done with the virus, but the virus is not done with us! 

I’ll say right off that I was thrilled with the opening of beauty salons!  I took the first appointment available.  My hairdresser, who has cut my hair for 40 years, wore a mask, which made me feel more comfortable.  Not all are following that protocol in beauty and barber shops, I hear. 

Restaurants have opened at half occupancy, and while masks for servers are not mandated in Phase 2, they are recommended.  So far in June, I have eaten 6 times in Spruce Pine or Bakersville restaurants.  All the restaurants had either roped off half their tables or actually removed half the tables and chairs.  A couple had gone to paper menus, while I saw waitstaff at a couple more spraying and wiping down their menus.  Only one restaurant had no plexiglass shield at the checkout.  Of the 6 restaurants, the servers in 2 wore masks; the others did not.  I was wearing my own mask, but I still felt insecure.  I doubt I will go back to the ones without masks, at least not to dine in. 

It’s been great that gatherings of fewer than 10 are now allowed.  I’ve joined friends a couple of times for get-togethers at their homes or mine.  We’ve worn masks until we sat down to eat, seated 6 feet apart.  Outdoor meals were optimal, but one day it was raining, so we sat under a carport, again 6 feet apart.  We were much more cognizant of hand sanitation and touching only our own food, but it surely was nice to visit face-to-face.  Most of the time we drove separately, but when we did ride in the same vehicle, we both wore masks.  I love my friends too much to risk their health, even if I were willing to risk my own.

Changes at Church

My church, Spruce Pine First Presbyterian, resumed in-person Worship on Sunday, 6/14, nearly 3 months since our last regular Worship on 3/15.  In the interim, we had YouTube Worship with video clips from minister, pianist, and congregation members, we had services broadcast to the church parking lot, and we held drive-through communion.  All those were good, but it was especially meaningful to see my brothers and sisters in Christ in person.  Hopefully in the next few weeks we can resume Sunday School.  Some churches in Mitchell County, I know, had gone back to in-person Worship a couple weeks ago, and a few small churches never stopped their in-person services. 

Our Session set guidelines for Worship and sent them to all members of the congregation.  Every other pew was taped off, there were no choirs or hymns, no hugs or handshaking, and we all wore masks.  I understand that some churches opted not to put such guidelines in place, which worries me, as several outbreaks nationally have been traced to church services. 

I keep coming back to masks and other precautions, don’t I?  I am very apprehensive about the number of people in my county who are not wearing masks, those who are congregating in large groups, and those who are engaging in other unsafe behaviors.  As I write this entry, there have been 24 cases of Covid-19 here, but I fear Mitchell County will see a tragic rise in the numbers of infections in the next few weeks.  I really hate that too many of my neighbors think there is no danger in our county, think that the worst is over and their precautions can be set aside, or worse, think that the whole crisis is a hoax or a partisan conspiracy!  Wear your masks, folks!

Here are the guidelines given to church members:

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH COVID-19 WORSHIP GUIDELINES

In order to keep everyone safe, we will be observing the following precautions and guidelines established per our Presbytery and state and local officials.  These guidelines will go into effect on June 14, 2020 and remain in effect until further notice.

  • Enter only at the double doors in the front; all other doors will be locked. We will enter through the narthex for sanctuary access.
  • If you have a mask or other face covering, please wear it as you come into church! If you don’t have one, we will have an assortment of masks at the door for you to select one.  You are expected to wear face covering while in attendance.
  • Please use the hand sanitization station as you enter, before going into the sanctuary. In addition, gloves will be available if you desire them.
  • Please keep 6 feet of distance from others, unless they are in your “bubble” (your family or friends that you live with or come in close contact with regularly).
  • Every other pew is “roped off” to encourage distancing. If you didn’t arrive with someone, give them space.
  • For the time being, please don’t shake hands or hug, as much as we may want to! It is just safer not to for now.  Please elbow-bump or tell them you love them.
  • At this time we will have no choir, and we will not sing hymns. Singing spreads the virus more than just talking.  We will have other great music to enjoy.
  • When we collect the offering we will bring the plate to you individually so have your offering in hand.If needed please use the small restrooms in front, and we will sanitize the room after each use.
  • The nursery will not be staffed, but will be available on a limited basis. Different groups can spread out into other rooms if necessary for distancing.  The fellowship hall will be closed off.

We believe these precautions will give us a safe environment to worship the Lord and to fellowship with one another.  If you cannot make the service, or you do not feel comfortable attending in person at this time, we have alternatives.  We will continue to broadcast FM radio (tune to 90.9) to the parking lot and to the playground/picnic shelter area.  And we will continue to video the service and have the online version available to watch later on YouTube.  Check out the First Presbyterian Spruce Pine website and Facebook!

With much love and God’s blessings to you all.

First Presbyterian Session

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About the Numbers

You will note a series of numbers contained in the blog. They document the spread of virus through confirmed cases by the federal Centers for Disease Control and by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. These are the official totals provided by state and local government at the date of the post and do not include estimates or cases not confirmed by these agencies. This is our effort to provide an accurate gauge of confirmed virus spread as it continues during the pandemic.

87,528

Cases in North Carolina
7/13/20

1,510

Deaths in North Carolina
7/13/20

1,040

Current Hospitalizations
in North Carolina
7/13/20

10,752

Cases in Western North Carolina
7/13/20

56

Cases in Mitchell County
7/13/20

178

Deaths in
Western North Carolina
7/13/20

3,236,130

Cases in the United States
7/13/20

134,572

Deaths in the United States
7/13/20