Sept. 3 COVID-19 Update from Canon Bill Parnell

Sept. 3, 2020

Additional COVID-19 Resources 
(Please direct questions to Canon Parnell at or 617-482-5800, ext. 205.)

Many of our clergy and lay leaders have requested additional guidance about risk factors related to the transmission of COVID-19, especially with relation to choral and congregational singing and adequate ventilation in church facilities. We have guidance about tracking attendance during this time of many live-streamed and pre-recorded services. We also want to share an announcement from the Episcopal Church Medical Trust about mid-year changes to health plans as well as our diocesan policy regarding compliance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including requests for emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave.  While there is a wealth of information available, it is important to curate reliable resources and to recognize that there is still much that is unclear about how the virus is transmitted. The following resources may be useful to you as you make decisions around how, when, where and if to regather.

Service Registers, ASA and TCC

Even as some churches have begun to regather for in-person worship services, many are live-streaming and pre-recording services.  The Episcopal Church Center has asked that, insofar as possible, attendance at virtual worship services be tracked but not recorded in the congregation’s service register.  Until a consistent method of listing this attendance in the service register is provided, please keep a separate log of virtual worship attendance.

As churches begin their 2021 budget discussions, we have begun to receive questions about how to calculate ASA (Average Sunday Attendance) as part of the TCC (Total Clergy Compensation).  The Compensation and Benefits Committee advises using 2019 ASA as the figure to calculate 2021 TCC/  The full Compensation and Benefits Committee report will be provided as usual in Convention materials distributed in advance of the October pre-Convention forums.

Mid-Year Health Plan Change Flexibility 

As a result of the economic upheaval and social disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Episcopal Church Medical Trust will allow increased flexibility with respect to mid-year health plan changes authorized under IRS Notice 2020-29, as follows, and if elected by the employer:
• Effective Sept. 1, 2020, through Dec. 1, 2020, members may enroll in or make a one-time change to their medical and/or dental plans (including changing health plan carrier/network or coverage tier) in the absence of a “Significant Life Event,” as defined in the Administrative Policy Manual. Any change will apply through Dec. 31, 2020.
• These changes will follow our current process where group administrators will make the changes.
• Changes must be made prospectively by group administrators. For example, for a one-time change effective Sept. 1, 2020, it must be entered by Aug. 31, 2020. Members may not make this change retroactively.

As with other mid-year election changes, if an employee changes plans, the accumulated deductible and out-of-pocket limit amounts paid will follow into the new plan. If an employee enrolls in a new plan with a lower deductible and has already paid a higher deductible, the excess amount paid will not be refunded to the employee.

For further information or to make changes, please contact diocesan HR consultant, Fred Ritzau, at or 617-482-5800, ext. 578. 

Employee Sick Leave and FMLA Leave

Diocesan policies are available on the diocesan website (see links below) for emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave, as it pertains to the pandemic. Please note these are policies that pertain to diocesan employees and are provided to assist churches with the development of their own policies. Specifically, these benefits include:
• Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at regular rate of pay when an employee is unable to work because employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
• Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at two-thirds of regular rate of pay when employee is unable to work because they are caring for an individual subject to quarantine or for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; 
• Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid extended FMLA leave at two-thirds of regular rate of pay when employee is unable to work because they are caring for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Diocese of Massachusetts COVID-19 Leave Policy
Families First Coronavirus Response Act poster
Infectious Disease Control Policy
Request for Emergency Paid Sick Leave  / (Word doc version also available)
Request for Expanded FMLA Leave  / (Word doc version also available)


“Safer Singing During the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: What We Know and What We Don’t”
This paper addresses risks associated with singing, including choral rehearsal and performance and congregational singing in church settings. Among the several authors of this scholarly paper is Thomas Leigh Carroll, MD, Director of Brigham and Women's Voice Program; Medical Director of Otolaryngology Clinics, Brigham and Women's Hospital; President, New England Chapter of the Voice Foundation; Assistant Professor in Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School.

Ventilation and Air Purification

Boston Collaborative conversation with Dr. Joseph Allen
Dr. Allen is the director of the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  In this video he discusses the many considerations of returning to gatherings in church buildings. Boston Collaborative began in 2017 as an effort to bring Boston Christians together as redemptive change agents, serving generously to transform communities.

“How to use ventilation and air filtration to prevent the spread of coronavirus indoors”
This article by Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, provides an overview of measures that can be taken to mitigate virus transmission indoors, including use of CO2 meters and air purifiers.

“Portable Air Cleaners: Selection and Application Considerations for COVID-19 Risk Reduction”
This article, produced by the Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, provides an overview of the principles and application of portable air cleaners to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

General COVID-19 Resources 

COVID Act Now is a resource for tracking risk levels by state and county in the 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

Pandemics Explained is a resource from the Harvard Global Health Institute which provides a new COVID Risk Level map and COVID suppression guidance for policy makers and the public. It includes COVID-19 risk level data by state and county.

COVID-19 Path Forward is a resource provided by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The road map provided here complies information gathered through a process called consilience – when different disciplines all arrive at the same conclusion independently. During this time of so much uncertainty, the resources here, addressing 14 different priority areas, attempt to answer the question, “What comes next?”

And for Inspiration…

The Diocese of Atlanta has produced an innovative website for online worship called Imagine Church, available at

Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston has created this informative YouTube video about how they are returning to church safely. We offer it as inspiration for churches producing their own videos (and Star Wars fans).