When Is It Safe To Reopen?

The Rev. Dr. Miriam J. Burnett is a practicing physician who serves as president of Resource And Promotion of Health Alliance, Inc. and medical director of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Health Commission. | Miriam J. Burnett

Rev. Dr. Miriam J. Burnett, a practicing physician and public health expert who serves as the medical director of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Health Commission, told The Christian Post in an interview that while it is fine for churches to plan for ministry in the aftermath of the pandemic, she would not recommend gathering again until infections are “near zero.”

“Unless the numbers have gone to near zero, not trending downwards but trending off, that’s not a conversation that can happen now. It can be a planning conversation for six months or so down the line when we actually see these numbers drop but that’s not a conversation that needs implementation in the next couple of weeks,” Burnett said.

“When you look at the demographics of most churches, especially the African American community, they are all high risk,” she said.

Burnett, who also leads the Historic Jones Tabernacle AME Church, said she asked which of her members did not fall into any of the six at-risk categories when it comes to the coronavirus “and not one hand could go up.”

“My hand couldn’t go up either. So based on who you have in your congregation, you can or cannot reopen because we are all high risk or have someone we are caring for who are high risk,” she said.

“It’s OK to hold that [reopening] conversation now. We are holding conversations. I met with my trustee board … on ensuring the church is deep-cleaned [and] removing chairs so that the social distancing actually happens,” she explained.

“How do we come back into the sanctuary for service? What system are we going to use for cleaning mics? What system are we going to use to make sure that all of the mics work so that everybody has their own so we’re not passing.

“I don’t think the world is going to be normal. The question is, what’s the new normal? That’s the ultimate question. The only thing we can do is plan and make our plans fluid. That’s the key, making your plans fluid and be always ready.”

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