Churches are preparing for coronavirus. Health officials say local cases are inevitable.


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Pastor John Vest of Peakland United Methodist Church knows Easter Sunday will draw a lot of worshippers, so he’s changing how he will give out communion, a holy ceremony where congregants consume bread and juice, for the next several months.

He’s using individual, pre-package portions called “fellowship cups.”

“You pull this back and there’s a wafer underneath,” he said, “and there’s a little juice underneath, and instead of having people come and and take the bread or handing them the bread.”

He’s also encouraging online donations instead of passing around a collection plate.

“Cleanliness is next to godliness, so being careful about this may not be about you. It may be about someone you love who has an underlying condition.”

People like YMCA employee Kathy Hoilman, who is caring for a premature baby at home.

“Being at a job where all the employees care about not only me but my little preemie guy is super important to me and makes me feel like we’re doing the right things.”

She says YMCAs across the country are educating staff and members and taking precautions.

“We’re cleaning more,” she said. “We’re ensuring that we have hand sanitizer, wipes on deck, and we’re also creating protocol for in the event that we do have a member or staff who is possibly infected come.”

The World Health Organization declared this a pandemic, which health officials say means one thing.

“We will see cases eventually,” said Haley Evans with the Central Virginia Health District. “It’s not an if. It’s a when.”

She says the Health Department is working round the clock with Lynchburg City departments, universities., and countless other employers and organizations to develop response strategies and quarantine procedures.

“We’ve done well with previous outbreaks,” she says. “We did well with H1N1 influenza pandemic.”

She said there’s no way to predict how long the pandemic will last.

A major concern is health centers being overloaded with patients asking for tests. Coronavirus and the flu have some similar symptoms, but some differences, according to Evans. The flu typically comes with full body aches, while coronavirus symptoms include difficulty breathing.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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