Handouts during COVID-19: Are They Safe?
As churches around the country have started opening back up, many in varying stages, there is important information to share with those who attend.
Traditionally, we’ve accomplished this goal with paper handouts.
Before COVID-19 arrived on the scene, we shared announcements and sermon outlines in a bulletin, special event information on fliers, and information about our church for a new guest in Guest Welcome Packets.
But COVID-19 has forced us to reevaluate all of our processes in an effort to keep our congregation safe, and that leaves us wondering: Is it safe to distribute paper handouts to members and guests?
As with everything COVID-related, there isn't an extraordinary amount of data, but specific studies have been done and the results are very promising.
In short, with some basic safety precautions, it's safe to still hand items to your members.
With some basic safety precautions, it's safe to still hand items to your members.
Studies have found that COVID-19 has different lifespans on different materials.
When we see in headlines that this virus can last for days on certain surfaces, it can make us pretty nervous about handing out printed materials.
But Carolyn Machamer, a professor of cell biology at the John Hopkins School of Medicine, says “What's getting a lot of press… is presented out of context…what’s more important is the amount of the virus that remains.”
On paper, for example, 99% of viral load is lost within 24 hours.
This means that while the virus is detectable on paper surfaces, it’s not enough of the virus to cause infection.
Professor Machamer puts it this way: “Infection is theoretically possible but unlikely…”
What this means for your church is that if you prepare paper-based products more than a day in advance and store them in a safe location, they're safe to distribute.
If you prepare paper-based products more than a day in advance and store them in a safe location, they're safe to distribute.
For plastic or metal items, a quick wipe-down with a disinfectant and then storing them in a safe place where they aren't likely to come in contact with respiratory droplets will help to ensure their safety.
In the actual process of handing items out, make sure your volunteer is wearing a mask and gloves to hand out items to people individually.
If your church gives ink pens to everyone who walks into your auditorium, make sure you have a "to be cleaned" basket and also a "sanitized pens" basket.
Again, a quick wipe-down with disinfectant is adequate for plastic or metal items being handed out to people.
Simple signage reminding people that "the items you receive have been prepared with safe handling practices" will go a long way toward soothing people’s concerns about receiving such items.
There's a strong perception during this pandemic that COVID-19 is very easily transmitted by touching certain surfaces, but the science doesn't support that position.
Even still, we want to be sensitive to the perceptions of those walking through our doors to worship. Let's help them feel safe while still having an effective Guest Ministry.