By Lindsay Peyton - En Español

As coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe, fears about the outbreak have also grown. Since the first diagnosis in China in December 2019, the virus has spread to 37 nations to date, including places where United Methodists reside. Bishop Scott J. Jones is asking congregations in the Texas Annual Conference to be aware and to take precautions – and to pray for individuals affected by COVID-19.
“I urge our leaders to be a calm presence, yet to also be prepared should a widespread outbreak affect our communities and local churches,” Bishop Jones said.
He encourages church leaders to prepare by completing the CDC Faith Based and Community Organization Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Checklist. 
In addition, Jones recommends that congregations consider in what form they can provide emotional and spiritual care for the sick. He also suggests that churches develop a plan in case worship services are interrupted. For example, he said that online worship and giving can always continue. Churches can also post resources on their websites for members.
“This is the time where we as United Methodists are reminded how important our responsibilities are as spiritual caretakers and to be partakers of accurate information,” the Bishop said. “As we pray and shepherd our churches during this time, please also remember our faithful and compassionate response to our sisters and brothers across the world.”
In the meantime, churches can consider ways to amend worship to make it safer during this time.For example, congregations can keep hand sanitizer onsite and think of alternatives to shaking hands or hugging across the pews.
Staying healthy is, after all, in the DNA of the UMC. John Wesley wrote both about physical and spiritual health. The Houston Methodist Hospital, a leader in medical care, is also preparing for the coronavirus.
Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, said that one of the most effective measures to combat a potential pandemic due to the COVID-19 virus is accurate and timely information.
“As health care workers we have a responsibility to educate ourselves on COVID-19 so that we can best serve our patients should illness from COVID-19 emerge in our community,” he said.
Houston Methodist has created an FAQ about coronavirus, and Phillips also suggests following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Phillips said that, as of today, 11 states have confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“Remember to practice great hand hygiene,” he added.“Also encourage your friends and family to follow the CDC’s prevention recommendations such as washing your hands, covering your cough or sneeze and avoiding touching your face.”
There are a number of precautions to take, including:

  • Wash your hands often, with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Keep a distance socially, especially if someone is sneezing and coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or even your elbow, when coughing or sneezing.
  • Get care immediately if you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Try calling ahead for an appointment to limit exposure to others.
  • Stay informed. There are a number of reliable resources, including the WHONational Institutes of HealthCenters for Disease Control, and Global Health Tracker.

Staying calm is on top of the list, Bishop Jones added. He said that now is the time to assess and prepare in case an outbreak occurs in the Texas Annual Conference.
He added that feeling stressed is normal in a time of crisis. Talking to family, friends and church members can help. He asks that individuals maintain a healthy lifestyle – through nutrition, exercise and proper amounts of sleep.
On an international level, the UMChas helped with the crisis in China since early February, when the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) issued an emergency grant to Amity Foundation in Nanjing, China.
The grant immediately enabled infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures tolimit the spread of respiratory diseases in affected areas.Funding for all continued assistance is being provided through UMCOR’s Global Health fund.
To learn more,including ways to donate, visit