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COVID Re-Opening Team Announces Policy & Procedures

The First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee COVID Re-Opening Team is pleased to announce the following policy and procedures for our return to in-person church activities. With love and justice as two of our core values, our primary focus is ensuring safety for all, including vulnerable populations in the church and the public at-large. By employing strict scientific criteria and appropriate precautions, First Church will be able to re-open safely.

[Also see a message from Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom about re-opening with our values of love and justice.]

While the below explains the Team’s reasoning, a detailed understanding of these criteria is not necessary as First Church will actively communicate the current re-opening status via multiple methods on a regular basis (including website and social media posts, regular weekly announcements, the church outgoing voicemail message, etc.).

Incidence of Infection Rate: We will be using the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Milwaukee County per 100,000 population over seven 7 days to guide our re-opening decisions. This number represents the number of new infections in Milwaukee over the prior week, per 100,000 people. This is a common public health metric used during the pandemic by numerous entities including the Milwaukee Health Department (https://city.milwaukee.gov/coronavirus) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) (https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). By following this normalized figure, we can most easily compare our decision-making to that of other congregations, cities, and expert guidelines. Importantly, First Church will retain online activities regardless of in-person status.

Vaccinations Recommended: The COVID Re-Opening Team strongly recommends that everyone be vaccinated prior to resuming in-person activities. This will not be a requirement for a return to church, but the Team would like to emphasize that vaccination is our best way out of the pandemic. Vaccines protect not only you, but everyone around you, and the act of receiving a vaccination is consistent with our UU values. While an increasingly vaccinated public will make in-person activities safer and more realistic, the incidence still provides the most accurate picture of disease activity in our community and will thus be used as the primary tool for re-opening decisions.


We will institute a phased re-opening to in-person activities once the incidence falls below 100 per 100,000 over 7 days, but we will not re-open for in-person Sunday worship until the incidence falls below 10 per 100,000 over 7 days.

The table below summarizes which activities are allowed at each incidence level, including more relaxed criteria for outdoor gatherings where risk is known to be lower:


Incidence per
100,000 over 7 days ​

Allowed in-person indoor gatherings ​


Additional allowed in-person outdoor gatherings ​

Any ​ Clergy pastoral care (for vaccinated clergy) ​ N/A ​
<100 ​ Memorial services (25 person attendance limit) ​ 25 person attendance limit ​
<50 ​ Small groups (20 person attendance limit) ​ 50 person attendance limit ​
<10 ​ Sunday worship and other large groups ​ N/A ​


In order to ensure disease levels are stable and do not represent a statistical aberration, each incidence level will need to be met for 28 consecutive days before re-opening at that level. Any subsequent increase above a given incidence limit will result in immediately stopping in-person activities at that level until the criterion is met for an additional 14 consecutive days. Find the complete policy here.


Once re-opened, First Church will be guided by our Precautions Procedures. Many of these safety measures are common sense and will be familiar to everyone (hand hygiene, mask usage, physical distancing when possible). For now, we will not be allowing food or drink (other than water) and gatherings will be limited to a two-hour duration. Group singing will not currently be allowed, but performances by 1-2 distanced singers are permissible.

Any questions can be addressed to the Team by emailing covidteam@uumilwaukee.org. We look forward to seeing all of you in-person once it is safe to do so.

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