USNF Great Hall Fall 2021
Frequently Asked Questions

For information about attending in-person services, please visit our In-Person Services Information 
For more details about our safety protocols, please visit 2021 COVID Safety Protocols

Topics covered in this FAQ:


SAFETY PROTOCOLS: What are the safety protocols for services in the Great Hall?

 Here is a summary:

  • Everyone must wear well-fitting masks covering nose and mouth. 
  • Seating distances between individuals or household groups will be 6 feet.
  • We will contact trace if needed.
  • We ask people to refrain from singing.  

For more details, here is a link to our 2021 Covid Safety Protocols.

CONTACT TRACING:  What is our contact tracing system in case someone attending an in person service becomes sick or tests positive soon after?

We have a list of names, emails, and telephone numbers from our reservation system and on a sign-in sheet of people attending a service in the Great Hall.  If we learn that someone has tested positive, we will notify everyone. Confidentiality will be maintained for anyone who has tested positive, unless the individual does not want anonymity.

PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT VACCINATED:  Will we require vaccinations to attend services? 

No, we will not. Our principle of inclusion for all applies to children under age 12, who currently can’t be vaccinated, and their families. Children’s social and emotional development has been disproportionately impacted during the shut-down. We recognize their strong need for interaction with peers and adults.  For these reasons, children will attend services in the Great Hall until they are dismissed for RE. Masking, social distancing, and guidance about when it is not recommended to attend services will help to ensure their safety and that of the congregation at large.

As for adults, our survey indicates a very high level of vaccination in the USNF adult population. Staff and RE volunteers must have their vaccination records on file. There may be a few adults among us who are unvaccinated for a variety of reasons. We have chosen not to use vaccination status as a criterion for attendance, because it is inconsistent with our foundational values of welcome and inclusion. Our goals in creating safety protocols are to balance safety and inclusion by providing guidance and some non-negotiable safety practices. We are leaving decisions about risk comfort levels up to individuals and families, which they can make based on the information we provide. We will update information as often as needed to help people make attendance decisions based on their individual circumstances. Online Zoom services and RE classes are an option for those  who choose not to, or are unable to, attend in person.

DECISION PROCESS: What did you base your decisions on?

 The transition team has used the following guiding principles as we navigated our decisions about how to safely congregate:

  • Remaining an inclusive and welcoming multigenerational community  
  • Showing care and compassion
  • Asking for trust that we are working towards decisions based on the best guidance we have at the moment
  • Being transparent when we don't have answers; seeking patience in response
  • Assessing community risk data over time and a commitment to adapt our plan as risk increases or decreases. 
  • Relying on current medical and scientific research; guidance from the CDC, the state of Massachusetts and our unique culture as a faith community. 
  • Engaging in practices that protect the most vulnerable, given that some of us are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • Protecting access for all: This means we will introduce in-person gatherings thoughtfully while maintaining and enhancing avenues of engagement online for those who cannot or prefer not to be present in person. 

SINGING: We’ve heard it’s risky. How do we remain safe?

Individual or couple singers in a pod will be positioned at the front of the GH at least 10' away from one another, the minister, pianist, and congregation members. Specialized singing masks are required for all singers. We ask our congregation to refrain from singing, as the UUA recommends. Research suggests that 6’ distancing and wearing typical masks are not adequate to protect against COVID spread by singing. 

RESERVATIONS:  How does that work for USNF?

Whenever local transmission rate data leads to attendance restrictions, we will use Eventbrite as a system to reserve a place in Sunday Services where we will practice social distancing.  A link to register will be provided in our regular mailings announcing services.  We encourage people to sign up to attend every few weeks, creating an informal rotation that will allow us to share the Great Hall time. There will be slots reserved for visitors, RE families and for general admission. We have a volunteer lined up to help anyone for whom the online reservation system is a barrier. Juli Kinsman has agreed to take on this role. If you need her help, you can either call (413) 244-5779 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

VOLUNTEERS: If I am volunteering on a particular Sunday, do I need to register? 

If you have a volunteer job assigned at an in-person service, you will not need to register, as we have already accounted for our volunteer team in our headcount.

AIR FLOW: Are we taking steps to improve air quality and flow in our spaces?  How do we measure it?

Yes. We have installed MERV 13 HEPA (or higher) filters on all of the furnaces at the recommendation of our HVAC company, which has made similar upgrades for other customers. The filters will clean the air regularly in all of our spaces. We also now have a CO2 monitor which we will use to help evaluate air exchange in all spaces.

THE GREAT HALL

Airflow in the Great Hall depends on many factors, among them time of year, the number of doors open, how widely they are  open, and the airflow in the spaces immediately adjacent. Because of its age and construction our Great Hall is not an air-tight space.  We have powerful ceiling fans that draw air out, which in the past have mainly been used in summer months for cooling. We plan to use the fans during all services.  We have also opened vents in the front of the hall to bring in more fresh air.  With fans on the lower speed, we estimate the air exchange to be at least 9 exchanges per hour.  While weather permits, we can also leave the doors to the parlor and back hall open, with windows in those spaces open as well.

DOWNSTAIRS

The downstairs will also have an I Wave purifier which will further purify and filter the air, as well as a portable CO2 monitor which will help us determine how effective the air exchange is in all spaces.

DECISION-MAKING: Who is making these decisions?

The Transition Team has been reviewing recommendations of health experts, monitoring community spread data, and seeking out other guidance since we began meeting in June to develop protocols based on the best information we could find. The RE Council is working with Jessica to develop protocols for the RE Program, using the same guidelines and data sources as the Transition Team -- in consultation with local schools and school nurses.  The House and Property Committee has researched and consulted with our HVAC company and others and made the decisions about appropriate upgrades. The Board of Trustees has reviewed and approved these recommendations.  Transition Team Members:  Corky KIlmczak and Cathy Lilly, co-chairs; Alan Dorman, Molly Hale, Laurie Loisel, Ed Olmstead, Emily Quintana, Jessica Harwood and Rev. Janet Bush.  Esti McCoy, who is a school nurse, is our primary medical consultant.

SOURCES:  What guidelines and data sources form the basis for the 2021 Covid Safety Protocols?

These safety protocols describe strategies to protect the health and safety of all,  based on current medical and scientific research and data available from the CDC, the state of Massachusetts and the city of Northampton, UUA COVID safety recommendations and our unique culture as a faith community. Going forward, we will decide on our attendance numbers on a weekly basis by reviewing Hampshire County risk levels as shown in data available from  COVID Act Now.

There have been instances where recommendations from public health and other sources do not align with the safety protocols we developed:  This could be because there are different interpretations of source recommendations or apparent contradictions among sets of recommendations. Other factors that played a role in our decisions are local transmission rates, what our two surveys showed us  about members’ varying comfort levels as well as the mitigation strategies  (distancing, masking, no congregational singing) we are requiring during services. The Transition Team, as with our congregation as a whole, has brought a variety of feelings, thoughts, ideas, and perspectives to this work. Through mutual trust and respect, we have crafted  these protocols, which have been enriched by our differences and guided by our love of this community and each other.

COMPLIANCE: How will we be sure these safety protocols are followed?  

For some of the protocols (self health check, staying home if exposure is a possibility) we depend on each other to be responsible for ourselves and the safety of others. Greeters, ushers and security volunteers in the Great Hall will assist with registration for contact tracing, ensuring masking, and distanced seating. And we believe because we are a covenantal community, this will not be a problem.

POSITIVE CASES: What if someone  tests positive for COVID after attending a service?

Please let the minister or DRE know as soon as possible if anyone from your family who attended the service has tested positive so that contact tracing can begin. The names of those who have tested positive will be kept confidential unless the person asks that their status be shared.

USNF MEETINGS: Are there guidelines for meetings that are held in locations in our building other than the Great Hall?

We know this is important! Here is the current draft of the USNF Pandemic Building Safety Protocols for All Groups

CONTACT FOR QUESTIONS: Who should I contact if I have more questions?:

Questions can be directed to any member of the Transition Team: Janet Bush, Alan Dorman, Molly Hale, Jessica Harwood, Cathy Lilly,  Laurie Loisel, Corky Klimczak, Ed Olmstead, Emily Quintana.