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“Someone at my church tested positive for COVID-19…what’s next?”

The Archdiocesan Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Team has issued guidelines ‘COVID-19 Action to be taken in respect of positive cases among persons who were at our Churches’.

Recently, churches in four of the 61 parishes that comprise the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain (Belmont, Penal, St Augustine and Curepe) were closed as a result of persons in the congregation testing positive for or having been exposed to persons with COVID-19.

The HSE reminds everyone “it is critical that they adhere to the protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and the Archdiocesan HSE.”

The guidelines advise:

  • In the case of a person testing positive for COVID-19 who within five days prior to the onset of symptoms, attended Holy Mass/Church Services, the following procedures should be adopted immediately:
  • The Parish Priest must be informed and he in turn informs the County Medical Officer of Health in his area immediately
  • All services and public access to the building must be suspended with immediate effect until cleaning and sanitising are completed within 24-48 hrs
  • A ‘deep clean’ of the facilities must be performed by the staff of a professional sanitising company. There must be cleaning and sanitising of all hard surfaces as well as washing and drying of all linens, at a high temperature. Special attention must be given also to the cleaning and sanitising of the vessels used in the sanctuary by using an alcohol-based solution containing a minimum of 70 per cent alcohol.
  • Once it is identified that the individual testing positive for COVID-19 attended a Church Service, the Contact Tracers from the office of the County Medical Officer of Health will inform all fellow congregants who were at church from the date of the Service of the potential exposure.

The guidelines emphasised, “Hence the need to maintain an accurate log of the names and contact numbers of every person who attended each Church Service.”

Contact Tracers, following a telephone interview with the individual testing positive for COVID-19, will be able to identify occasions of possible high-risk transmission e.g., shared private transport versus less risky behaviour e.g. socially distant conversation outdoors with nose and mouth covering.

Individuals with prolonged, direct contact with the index case i.e., primary contacts, are instructed to quarantine at home for 14 days. At present, under community spread with a rising number of positive cases, primary contacts, both symptomatic and asymptomatic are encouraged to attend at their local Health Centre for COVID-19 testing.

Congregants who were ‘also present’ in the church are informed of the confirmed positive case(s), instructed to quarantine at home for seven days and remain vigilant about the onset of any flu-like symptoms at which point they too must present themselves at their local health centre for COVID-19 testing.

Parishioners are invited to stay tuned to their parish’s social media platforms for updates and more information

For full list of HSE Guidelines for the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, CLICK HERE

For further information persons are invited to contact the HSE Secretariat: hse@catholictt.org