Friends General Conference

Pandemic Health & Safety Policy 2024

Created: February 2022
Last Updated on: Mar 19 2024

Pandemic Policy Working Group

In the Fall of 2021, Friends General Conference (FGC) formed a Pandemic Policy Working Group to create a policy for reinstating in-person events. This group included staff and volunteers with a variety of gifts and identities. These included: a legacy of resilience, empowerment, and building alliances with the commitment to establish equitable structures within and outside of the Religious Society of Friends; public health and medical backgrounds; decades of concern for racial equity with years of employment in factories, warehouses, restaurants and working at institutions of higher education; extensive experience with Gathering, FGC committee work and smaller FGC meetings; and having children of a variety of ages.

The folks listed below represent the following FGC committees: Personnel, Long Range Conference Planning, Development, Organizational Guide, and the Committee for Nurturing Ministries. Knowing that this working group did not encompass the diversity we hoped to represent, we also shared the draft policy with members of FGC staff and some other committees for feedback.

2022 Pandemic Policy Working Group

This group was responsible for facilitating the initial policy creation process:

  • Frank Barch (he/him, European Descent)
  • David Nachman (he/him)
  • Elaine Giletta (she/her, White)
  • Anne Pomeroy (they/them, White)
  • Pim Halka (ze/zir or he/him, White)
  • Lori Piñeiro Sinitzky (she/her, Ashkenazi & Caribbean)
  • Vanessa Julye (she/her, African Indigenous)
  • Melissa Rycroft (she/her, White)
  • Katrina McQuail (she/her, White)
  • Karen Snare, (she/her, European-American)

2023 Pandemic Policy Revision Working Group

This group included

  • General Secretary Barry Crossno
  • Interim Conference Director Liz Dykes
  • 2023 Gathering Co-Clerk Jessica Bucciarelli
  • Frank Barch, MD
  • LRCP assistant clerk Karen Snare
  • Kira Smith, NP
  • Young Adult and Youth Ministries Coordinator Kody Hersh
  • Ministry on Racism Coordinator Vanessa Julye
  • Administrative Associate Susan Lee Barton

2024 Pandemic Policy Revision Working Group

This group included:

  • General Secretary Barry Crossno
  • 2024 Gathering Co-Clerk John Skinner
  • LRCP assistant clerk Karen Snare
  • Associate Secretary for Ministries Liz Dykes
  • Young Adult and Youth Ministries Coordinator Kody Hersh
  • Administrative Associate Ruth Reber
  • Frank Barch, MD
  • Kira Smith, NP
  • Conference Director Ben Hustis (TP-C)
  • Associate Secretary for Organizational Cultural Transformation Vanessa Julye

Given that the policy may need modification as the case counts and medical understanding of COVID-19 change, and because people need to know the commitments they make when they register for an event, FGC will use the Pandemic Health & Safety Policy version in place when online registration goes live for that event.

Overview

Friends General Conference constitutes a broad and resilient spiritual community in which individuals care for one another and follow long-held Quaker testimonies. Each testimony recognizes that Friends live in close relationships with one another. We envision a vital and growing Religious Society of Friends – a faith that deepens spiritually, welcomes newcomers, builds supportive and inclusive community, and provides loving service and witness in the world. We are led by the Spirit joining together in ministry to offer services that help Friends, meetings, and seekers explore, deepen, connect, serve, and witness within the context of Friends’ living faith.

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the world and Friends’ lives in previously unimaginable ways. The spread of COVID-19 has required us to take precautions as individuals and as a community. In the summer of 2020, Friends General Conference did not host an in-person Gathering for the first time in 43 years. FGC used online alternatives to meeting together or suspended all in-person committee work and retreats for youth and people of color until 2022. The loss of in-person gatherings intensified the recognition of their value. As a result, it strengthened Friends’ resolve to safely come together again.

This Health & Safety Policy provides COVID-19 pandemic guidelines for all conference operations and activities. The policy was created by the Pandemic Policy Working Group in consultation with FGC staff and a number of FGC committees. It incorporates many sources of knowledge and guidance, including best practices within the broader conference community, labor practices that protect the health and safety of staff and volunteers, and requirements from local, state, and federal agencies. Given the pandemic’s dynamic nature, we attempt to account for multiple contingencies and will update this policy in order to adapt to changing conditions.

As an international organization, FGC will generally use the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines and turn to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as appropriate or necessary.

In advance of a scheduled FGC event, the General Secretary, the Presiding Clerk, and the Clerk of the committee planning the event (e.g. Long Range Conference Planning Committee for the Gathering) may decide to cancel, postpone, or pivot the event from in-person to virtual. The General Secretary should consult with staff and the clerks of impacted committees. Due to the constantly shifting nature of this pandemic, FGC may choose to cancel an in-person event at any time, though we will try to do so with as much notice as possible. Until the pandemic situation permits otherwise, staff will monitor implementation of this policy. FGC will communicate any needed policy updates to the community.

As long as COVID-19 is present in our population, in-person events will carry transmission risk. However, we can keep the risk level as low as possible, using risk-mitigation strategies and changing our programs to produce magical, fun-filled events.

Policy Summary

FGC will require event participants to have:

  • An updated 2023/2024 vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax) at least two weeks prior to the event for those 6 months of age or older.
    • For many reasons, some members of the Quaker community may remain unvaccinated. In light of the increased risk of transmission by, infection of, hospitalization, and severe illness to an unvaccinated person, and knowing that many FGC events will offer online alternatives, FGC requires vaccination of every event participant 6 months of age or older. We highly encourage you to get the newest course of vaccination (including boosters) for which you are eligible.
    • Friends who are unable to receive the most recent vaccines may email us for a waiver.  We will ask that you provide a letter from your physician stating that you meet the CDC criteria for avoiding further COVID vaccines. We would request you to mask indoors in group settings except when eating, showering, or brushing your teeth.
  • One PCR or two rapid antigen tests 24-48 hours apart just prior to departure.
    • To avoid becoming sick after you arrive, please monitor your symptoms in the weeks prior to an event. We prefer PCR tests for their sensitivity at detecting COVID-19 infection, but the more readily available rapid antigen tests cost less. If you test positive, please report this result to the organizing FGC staff person and do not attend the event in person.
  • Negative rapid antigen test (provided by FGC) upon arrival.
    • Because asymptomatic transmission remains a possibility, FGC will provide testing for everyone upon their first arrival at the event. Although PCR tests have greater sensitivity than rapid tests, they have too long a turnaround time to be practical.

By registering for and attending an FGC event, attendees agree to:

  • Properly wear approved masks (N-95, KN-95, or KF-94) as required:
    • Inside: Generally recommended but not required. Portions of some indoor events may require Friends to wear masks.
    • Outside: recommended but not required. Strongly recommended for activities with close group contact.
      • Proper masking and distancing have been shown to effectively reduce the likelihood of transmitting or being infected by the aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as other contagious diseases, therefore masks continue to be strongly recommended, especially indoors.
  • Complete a symptom self-check each day of the event before leaving their on-site residence, and to stay in place, contact the event organizer, and get a rapid test if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.
    • As care of the community stands paramount, we ask each member of the community to complete a symptom self-check each day of an event. Because symptoms might arise from allergies or another virus, confirming through a negative COVID-19 test helps to ensure community safety.
  • Participate in on-site rapid testing at the start of the event. If significant transmission is observed, FGC staff may require additional testing of event attenders and staff.
    • We hope to detect anyone exposed during their travel to the event. A COVID-19 response team will decide about midweek testing of all attendees based on the number of positive results from self-testing, uptake of quarantine housing, and cluster outbreaks.
  • Participate in contact tracing.
    • Many sites require FGC to file a contact tracing plan before they allow use of their facilities. The details of contact tracing will vary according to the event and the facility.
  • Monitor symptoms for two weeks after the end of the event. If symptoms develop, promptly obtain a COVID-19 test and report any positive test result to FGC.
    • Attending an event creates risk of exposure. Monitoring symptoms, promptly testing if symptoms develop, and reporting a positive COVID-19 test to FGC will allow FGC to follow appropriate protocols of notifying others of their possible exposure.

If a member of the FGC event community tests positive, they are agreeing to:

  • Stay home if the positive test precedes arrival at the event. You may choose to cancel or switch to virtual participation (if the event has a virtual option) at no additional charge. Refunds or partial refunds will depend on each event’s specifics. Please discuss with the FGC staff .
    • We hold the protection of the community as primary and the monetary impact of canceling participation as secondary. FGC’s Long Range Conference Planning Committee has adopted new cancellation protocols that allow for those with serious contagious illness and members of their immediate households to cancel without penalty, receiving a refund for all or part of the Gathering on request. Cancellations for other reasons are subject to the full cancellation policy, including for Friends who are asked to leave because of noncompliance with policies.
  • If the positive test occurs while onsite, plan to quarantine in place until off-campus accommodations can be arranged at the individual’s expense, with an option to switch to the virtual program at no additional charge.
    • Quarantine reduces the further exposure and spread of COVID-19 in the community.
  • If symptoms develop within two weeks after the event, obtain a COVID-19 test. If positive, report the result to FGC.
    • Attending an event creates risk of exposure. Monitoring symptoms, prompt testing if symptoms develop, and reporting a positive COVID-19 test to FGC will allow FGC to notify others of their possible exposure.

Guiding Principles

In planning to reopen in-person events, the working group followed these guiding principles:

Remain committed to equity

FGC puts considerations of equity, diversity, inclusion, and access at the center of all event planning efforts. All discernment will incorporate the query: How does this decision support FGC in its goal to transform into an actively anti-racist faith community?

Stay intently grounded in FGC’s mission

Amid all that has happened and all that will happen, FGC will remain focused on our vision:

We envision a vital and growing Religious Society of Friends—a faith that deepens spiritually, welcomes newcomers, builds supportive and inclusive community, and provides loving service and witness in the world.

Through Friends General Conference, we see Quakers led by the Spirit joining together in ministry to offer services that help Friends, meetings, and seekers explore, deepen, connect, serve and witness within the context of our living faith.

Prioritize the health and safety of all members of the FGC community

The physical, spiritual, social-emotional wellness of all participants, staff, volunteers, and host location communities form our primary concern.

Maintain integrity and trust

When planning events, FGC will act with integrity, strive to build and maintain the trust and confidence of the Quaker community, and communicate clearly and transparently with all registered participants, all staff, and all other stakeholders and community members.

Build community

FGC commits to holding events that build and maintain a wise, spiritually resilient community, where faith and relationships flourish and grow, where they are nourished all year round, where these bonds that sustain us then go deeper and become stronger every time Quakers gather.

Use these guiding queries:

How can we act with love for our beloved community’s physical and spiritual health to thrive?

What does care for our spiritual community mean and look like for me?

What behaviors and expectations do I need to adjust to actively demonstrate my care of our spiritual community?

FGC asks all attendees and all staff to sign and affirm their understanding of a statement of community agreements and collective responsibility. This statement appears in Appendix A below.

Further Explanation Of Required Health & Safety Requirements and Expectations

Required vaccination for everyone eligible

FGC requires WHO-recommended vaccination of each staff member, volunteer and attendee two weeks or more before their arrival at the event. For the safety of the community,FGC recommends that event participants also have any boosters for which they are eligible.

If WHO recommendations change within 2 months of the start of the event, FGC will encourage Friends to follow the most up-to-date recommendations but may attend as long as they comply with the recommendations that were in effect 60 days prior to the start of the event.

As of the writing of this policy, all children 6 months old or above may receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we expect them to meet the vaccination requirements. If vaccine recommendations change for children under 6 months of age more than 60 days prior to the event, they will also need to meet the vaccination requirement. Contact the staff person for your event for assistance or information.

Masking

Properly worn masks covering the nose, mouth, and chin limit the spread of COVID-19.  N95, KN95, or KN94 are the most effective. We ask Friends to honor the community, especially those members who are more vulnerable, by wearing masks whenever and wherever feasible. We recommend that everyone 5 years old or older wears a mask whenever indoors.

Masking will be required in a limited number of conditions. Masking will be required in plenary sessions. Masks will be required to meet one of the standards listed above.

In honoring our community, please consider using these guidelines. You can apply this 2 of 3 rule in interacting with others.

  • Outdoors + Distanced = Mask optional
  • Outdoors + Not Distanced = Mask recommended.
  • Indoors = Masks are required during plenaries and strongly recommended in other settings.

Attendees should arrive at the event with enough approved masks to make it through the event. We ask attendees to keep a mask on hand at all times. FGC will provide a sufficient stockpile of extra masks if you run out. If access to approved masks or ADA accommodations would create a barrier to your participation, please contact the FGC staff person for your event.

Testing requirements for all attendees – regardless of age

FGC asks all event attendees to test at various points, and to accept that in order to protect the health of the community, a positive result will mean to refrain from attending or leave the event. By registering for an FGC event, you as the attendee agree to:

  • Take two PCR or rapid tests 24-48 hours apart before leaving for the event. If the cost of these tests creates a barrier to your attendance, please contact the FGC staff person organizing your event. Please report any positive tests to your coordinating FGC staff
  • Take a rapid test (provided by FGC) upon arrival at the event.
  • In events lasting longer than 5 days, or in the case of significant Gathering community transmission, a COVID-19 response team may require midweek testing of all attendees, based on the number of positive results from self-testing and resulting transmission risks.
  • Take a rapid test (provided by FGC) if you develop symptoms, per your daily symptom self-screen.
  • Should you have symptoms, self-isolate and contact your designated FGC Staff remotely to receive and complete a rapid test (provided by FGC). Use COVID.reporting.FGC@gmail.com or the phone number given by your coordinating FGC staff.
  • Self-isolate and leave the event should you test positive.

Response to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case

As always, we aim to keep everyone healthy and safe at an FGC event. FGC staff and designated key volunteers will support attendees in getting their medical needs met should they fall ill. If an attendee needs medical attention for any reason while at the event, please contact the designated FGC staff person in your event materials.

Many of the venues FGC uses have confirmed that they cannot accommodate quarantining onsite. If you need to quarantine off-site, FGC commits to providing community care and support through a variety of means, depending on the capacity at the specific event.

In the event of a significant COVID-19 outbreak at Gathering, FGC staff may need to take measures not outlined in this document. Any measures considered will prioritize conservation of life and quality of life of all community members, and will be discerned in accordance with Quaker principles as much as possible.

Because COVID-19 is a communicable disease, FGC  will comply with the local health department requirements after any positive test results. FGC will work within the local official contact tracing procedures for the protection of both the FGC community and the site and its surrounding community.

Follow-up for exposed persons:

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, FGC will first work with the individual to identify and notify anyone who is designated at risk based on current recommendations at the time of the event and then notify the wider community if appropriate.

In the two weeks following your return home from an FGC event, we ask you to notify FGC if anyone in your household who attended the event tests positive for COVID-19. After the Gathering, contact COVID.reporting.FGC@gmail.com due to staff being out of office for some weeks following.

Daily health screening & monitoring

The standard procedure for 2024 will require attendees to self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 prior to arrival at an event and each morning of the event, prior to participation. FGC will provide each attendee with a list of COVID-19 symptoms, as set by the WHO at the time of the event.

If an attendee does not pass the daily self-screening they should (remotely) contact the FGC staff/volunteer designated in their event materials and follow the directions provided, including self isolating until they can get a test, which FGC will supply. They must provide proof of a negative COVID test before resuming in-person participation.

Contact tracing

We will follow any site-specific requirements for contact tracing. When possible, the event organizer will provide contact-tracing protocols for any organized activity at an FGC event.

FGC will follow the host site’s policy about whether only residents of the same household can inhabit a room, or whether residents of multiple households can room together.

Singing / Music / Dancing

Masking will be optional but is strongly encouraged for singing and dancing.  Friends should be aware of the increased risk of disease transmission during activities like singing and dancing where heavier breathing and forceful exhalation is likely.  Please consider how best to protect yourself and others as we join together in community and fun. Friends organizing singing activities will plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Ideally these activities will happen outside, under a covered location in the case of inclement weather or hot sun. The organizers of the activity, in consultation with others, will determine appropriate safety measures.

When and where possible, organizers will plan to hold partner/group dancing activities (such as contra dance) outside. 

Youth

FGC will require all youth eligible for vaccination (according to WHO guidelines) to be vaccinated in order to attend an FGC event.

The same testing requirements will apply to youth as to the rest of the attendees.

The same masking requirements will apply to youth 6 years and older as to the rest of the attendees.

In order to reduce the likelihood of asymptomatic transmission to any unvaccinated infant, volunteers who work with those too young to get vaccinated will take daily rapid tests.

Youth in the High School program will sign the community agreement along with their sponsor.

Appreciate and take advantage of fresh air and the great outdoors

The risk of transmitting the aerosolized SARS-CoV-2 virus through the air decreases outdoors. FGC encourages organizers to consider which activities they could hold outdoors.

Physical distancing and dining

FGC encourages Friends to support a culture shift so mealtime serves the purpose of fueling bodies, separate from fellowship time.

FGC staff person(s) in consultation with other event leaders will arrange to limit the spread of COVID-19 during meals. At any FGC event, FGC staff and key volunteers will work with the site staff to expand dining options to include take-away meals and grab-and-go meals, allowing attendees to eat outside or in the comfort of their own rooms.

If possible, FGC will create additional outdoor dining options and work with the site staff to ensure room for distancing in any inside dining.

When possible, we will set aside family-friendly spaces and/or spaces that will not have unvaccinated children in them.

We invite Friends to show extra compassion and thoughtfulness when engaging with others, especially the site’s food service staff.

Bathrooms

In communal bathrooms, when not showering or brushing your teeth, we recommend that you wear a mask.

Transportation

Riding in shuttles and carpooling in FGC-arranged vehicles will require drivers and passengers to wear masks during the transport. To maximize air flow, windows will stay open whenever possible.

Temporarily leaving an FGC event

Whether through shopping, dining, or exploring local culture, connecting with the local community may enhance the experience of an FGC event. However, we ask you to consider the consequences to the local community if your presence unwittingly exposes them to COVID-19, and to modify your behavior accordingly.

Field trips

The FGC staff responsible for an event will make a decision about whether FGC will hold field trips based on current case count, infection rate, and vaccination rate data for the local community.

Event site

The requirements for attendees at FGC events do not automatically apply to host venue employees or local community members. Local regulations may prohibit certain mandates, including for masks and vaccinations. Such local or state regulations should not prevent FGC from imposing its policy.

Safety of staff / volunteers / Good Samaritans

When caring for and supporting someone at an FGC event who tests positive for COVID-19, all parties must wear face shields, properly fitting N95, KN95, or KF94 masks, and other appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). When sharing a vehicle with someone who has tested positive, everyone must wear PPE and keep vehicle windows open.

FGC will not require its staff or volunteers to physically approach individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Staff or volunteers who are qualified and have agreed to support community members that become ill will be provided with and required to wear appropriate PPE to the best of FGC’s knowledge and ability.

FGC asks anyone volunteering to support those who have tested positive for COVID-19 to acknowledge the risk to themselves. FGC asks that anyone using work grant positions for financial assistance only choose this support role if they feel called to it and carry low risk of serious harm. FGC does not want the need for financial assistance to push you into an unsafe situation.

Hygiene & frequent hand washing

We encourage everyone to wash or sanitize their hands frequently, and to use standard cough and sneeze etiquette – sneezing or coughing into your mask.

Medical support

FGC sometimes uses medical professionals who volunteer their time and expertise for the community. These professionals may be called to assess community members who are ill, which carries an increased risk of exposure to COVID or other contagious diseases. FGC will only (knowingly) seek medical support from these volunteers for non-COVID issues such as a fall, broken bone, or other health concern. Unless the care requires removing the patient’s mask, everyone involved in this volunteer medical support will remain masked. Volunteers or staff have the right to refuse to provide assessment or care if they feel that the situation is unsafe.

Administration & staffing

To keep one another healthy and safe, FGC staff will foster a culture of safety, and will hold all staff and attendees accountable for following the Health & Safety Policy at the event.

Each attendee shares responsibility for ensuring adherence with the Health & Safety Policy. Any reminder of appropriate behavior must come from a place of love and compassion, as a tone heard as harsh will likely have an undesired effect. We ask attendees who see issues of noncompliance that they can’t address directly to share what they’ve seen with event staff.

Event staff and designated key volunteers have authority to interpret the Health & Safety Policy. FGC may send additional information about parts of the existing policy applicable to events other than the Gathering of Friends. As of March 2023, this policy shall apply to all in-person components of FGC events.

As in any emergency, FGC staff hold responsibility for timely decisions in a COVID-19 outbreak.

Noncompliance

If and when they notice someone not following the Pandemic Health & Safety Policy, we invite event attendees to share instances of noncompliance with appropriate staff or key volunteers so that FGC can intervene before the issue grows larger or emotionally heated.

FGC events and programs are places where Friends can meet together for the sharing of the unfolding nature of the Spirit within. FGC seeks to provide an environment where we may be as enriched by our differences as by our similarities. Preservation of the Community in Spirit is a function of FGC committees and staff. We seek to provide a place of safety for all who attend, regardless of race, income, age, gender or sexual orientation. Behavior which disrupts program activities, or is threatening or harmful to others may result in expulsion from FGC events and/or prohibition from attendance at future events.

Due to the nature of COVID-19, all attendees of FGC events must affirm their commitment to follow the Pandemic Health & Safety Policy and community agreements. Deviating from these community agreements puts the physical health and safety as well as the spiritual safety of the community at risk.

Procedure in Event of Non-compliance

  1. Report violations of the Pandemic Policy in confidence to the FGC staff responsible for the event.
  2. If needed, the FGC staff will meet with appropriate individuals such as committee clerk(s) or other staff (this becomes the team).
  3. The team or their designated representatives will talk with the parties involved.
  4. The team will ascertain and activate a support system for parties involved, where possible.
  5. The designated team will determine the appropriate actions and communicate them to the individual(s):
    1. If they feel the violation carries low risk, the team will warn the individual not to repeat it.
    2. If the violation carries significant risk, the team will ask the individual(s) to leave the program activity and/or the event.
    3. Repeated inability to follow the Pandemic Health & Safety Policy or Community Agreements will result in expulsion from the event and/or from future FGC events.

APPENDIX A: Statement of Community Agreements & Shared Responsibility

Adjusting to pandemic conditions highlighted the importance and value of gathering in-person and reminded Friends that the decisions and actions of each individual have an impact on those around us. Though we can’t completely eliminate the chance of spreading COVID-19, we can significantly mitigate the risk of contagion. We intend the FGC Health & Safety Policy to break the chain of spread and to provide a safe and joyous environment for all to live, work, worship, and play together. If we hold the serious purpose of protecting one another, we can reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

FGC has committed itself to resuming an in-person Gathering. We firmly believe that in order to prioritize the health and safety of our community, all members must commit to follow the requirements of the FGC Pandemic Health & Safety Policy, including:

  • Having up-to date vaccinations
  • Undergoing COVID-19 tests pre-event, on arrival and midweek as required
  • Reporting a positive test result to FGC at COVID.reporting.FGC@gmail.com within 72 hours prior to, during, and within two weeks after the Gathering
  • Preparing to leave the Gathering if a COVID-19 test gives a positive result 
  • Self-checking symptoms daily
  • Masking in the plenary spaces Quarantining if you get a positive test
  • Observing the guidance of the WHO, CDC and other public health agencies in the weeks leading up to Gathering arrival
  • Recognizing that our decisions and actions on a daily basis may have consequences not only for ourselves, but for others in our community

FAQs

FGC requires an updated 2023/2024 vaccine (Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax) at least two weeks prior to the event for those 6 months of age or older, regardless of prior COVID infection. There is no firm data on how long any immunity conferred by COVID-19 infection lasts. It is not recommended to delay initial vaccination, even post-COVID-19 infection, as long as you are no longer symptomatic and have completed your recommended quarantine to minimize the risk to others.

While FGC recommends being up-to-date on any boosters available to you, we recognize that your local health guidance may vary on timing. Please consult your local health authority for recommended vaccine schedules.

At this time, Friends General Conference has made the decision to require primary COVID vaccinations for all attendees who can be vaccinated under current health guidelines for events in-person. This is not a decision that has been made lightly, as FGC recognizes that it will prevent some Friends who have chosen not to vaccinate from attending in-person events.

FGC is committed to finding alternate ways to maintain community and allow Friends who cannot attend events in-person to experience FGC events and community. Consider a Friend’s words from an article written for Friends Journal, “Not every event will be accessible, suitable, or desired by every Friend, but our hope is that within the totality of offerings, many Friends will find things to feed their spiritual hunger, inspire their connections with the wider body of North American Friends, and continue their journeys as Quakers in the twenty-first century.”

Attendees at Friends General Conference events often come together from all over North America, if not the world. The fact that we are creating communities from such disparate home communities and regions increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. While our host facilities and communities often have their own policies and risk assessments around COVID-19 based on the community that is hosting us, we must consider our increase in risk.

This risk not only concerns our FGC community, but the communities that host us. It is incumbent upon us as we seek right relationship with our hosts to minimize the risk that we bring to them.

Currently, FGC requests that you take two rapid antigen tests, approximately 24 hours apart, prior to departing for your event. This is to, if possible, safeguard against people from traveling to an event and not being able to attend.

You may be able to source rapid tests from your insurance provider. If not, pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS in the United States carry home tests. Prices as of the creation of this FAQ are $23.99 for two tests.

  • We believe that Friends General Conference is a religious community with a responsibility to all who attend FGC events.
    • This responsibility includes making our best efforts to maintain a high level of safety for and protection of our community.
      • Our individual choices affect others in the community
      • Marginalized community members have been found to be at greater risk of serious illness & death from COVID-19. These infections have a disproportionate impact on people with lower incomes, people with disabilities, people who are immunocompromised, people who are uninsured or underinsured, and people of color.

  • We continue to suffer from a global pandemic with recurrent waves of infection.
  • Viral evolution continues. Multiple recent variants have shown resistance to immunity from prior infections and vaccines as well as medications including Paxlovid and other therapeutics.
  • We are currently only beginning to understand the repercussions of “long COVID,” meaning continued COVID symptoms or other sequelae, which can be debilitating or disabling. Current WHO estimates are that 10%-20% of people infected by COVID experience long COVID.
  • Children under 6 months old are not eligible for vaccination, and can therefore best be protected by the reduced amount of community infection (and therefore transmission) that vaccination of those who are eligible provides.
  • Unvaccinated children, people who are immunocompromised, people with certain (common) conditions, and the elderly are at greater risk of severe disease & death.
  • Serious illness and death occur even in healthy teens and young adults, though their relative risk is lower than in those who are older.
  • Communities of color, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, people who are uninsured or underinsured, and people living in lower income communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, even now.

  • Many organizations, including governments, have relaxed masking, distancing, and vaccination requirements.
  • Regardless of the motivation behind these moves, they do reflect declining case counts and the effectiveness of vaccination and other COVID-19 mitigation measures.
  • However, there are members of our community and the communities that we are guests in that are at increased risk from COVID-19. These can include, but are not limited to:
    • People and communities of color
    • People who are disabled
    • Indigenous people and communities
    • People living in lower-income communities
    • Children
    • People who are immunocompromised
    • The elderly
  • Friends General Conference has chosen to take extra steps and retain more vigilant measures against COVID-19 to protect the most vulnerable among us.
  • Community members have also needed to plan for their Gathering experience, so we needed to set requirements and procedures in place.

  • Rapid tests upon arrival will be provided.
  • During the event, rapid tests will be provided if deemed necessary by FGC staff due to exposures, symptoms. or positive cases.
  • Some masks will be available to those who have forgotten or run out, but plan to bring your own that are compliant with N-19, KN95, or KF94 standards.

  • PCR testing is the most accurate available test for COVID-19, and best at catching asymptomatic infections. However, it has become harder and harder to get PCR tests.
  • Rapid Antigen Tests are the most widely available tests and the most accessible.
  • RATs are less sensitive to asymptomatic infections due what they assess, so serial testing can increase their sensitivity, leading to a better chance of catching an early infection.

  • N95-rated respirators with straps around the head provide the best protection.
  • N95 & KN95 with ear loops provide good protection, but are more prone to leaks.
  • “Surgical” or “procedure” masks offer some protection, but leaks are a weakness. If they are the only available option, doubling up on masks may provide more protection.
  • Cloth masks and “gaiters” are ineffective and unsatisfactory.
  • Face shields may protect from respiratory droplets, but do not protect against or prevent the spread of airborne viral particles without a mask. In the case of some transparent plastic “masks”, they actually funnel exhalation up and out, allowing for further spread.

  • Wear a mask while obtaining food, then take the food outside to eat, while still considering physical distancing if possible. COVID transmission outside is much less likely.
  • Wear a mask while obtaining food, take it off to eat or drink promptly, and then replace your mask to socialize. If possible, leave the dining area to socialize.
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