The purpose of this post is to provide information for groups to consider as they move towards safely reopening in-person meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please note the service structure of Alcoholics Anonymous places the groups as the highest level of service, and as such Southern Delaware Intergroup cannot direct what each autonomous group can or cannot do. Our role is to provide the community with services that the individual groups cannot readily provide for themselves, giving space to the groups to focus on their primary purpose of ‘carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers‘.
Therefore, it is important to understand that the information presented is not a directive, but rather a tool for groups to use in protecting the health and safety of everyone.
We know that many A.A. members are excited by the prospect of meeting in-person again, but because of the serious dynamics of the current situation, we urge groups to conduct an informed group conscience meeting to plan how to reopen in a safe and spiritual way.
If your group does decide to meet in person, please notify us by email with the details so that we can update your meeting information on the website.
These suggestions are compiled from several other intergroups and central offices across the country to determine best practices to protect A.A. members going forward. We hope you will consider these guidelines to protect our members, our fellowship as a whole, and others with whom we come in contact. This post will be updated regularly as we learn new information.
Tradition One and Tradition Four are important now more than ever. We have to consider the health and well-being of other A.A. members, and we need to protect the positive reputation and goodwill of A.A. in the community.
Tradition One tells us “Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.”
Tradition Four tells us “Each group is autonomous, except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.” When making group decisions, the second part of this tradition is of vital importance.
These traditions remind us that we must ensure that our group decisions do not negatively impact our fellow members, or A.A. as a whole, and that we as individuals act in ways that ensure our common welfare.
Delaware State of Emergency
As an organization and as individuals, we are not exempt from the law. Fortunately, our programs of recovery has taught us how to be responsible citizens, both in A.A. and the world.
While the State of Emergency remains in effect, the Governor is continuing to enforce the wearing of face-masks (nose & mouth), social distancing protocols and other guidance as determined by the Division of Public Health. See the latest data and learn more here.
Meeting Facility Requirements
This should go without saying, but groups must have permission from their churches or facilities to resume meeting on the premises — either inside the premises, or on the grounds outside (includes parking lot).
Considerations for Meeting in Person
Once your group knows its responsibilities to the facility, the group may want consider the following questions to help decide how the meeting will be run. Please note these questions are not intended to be exhaustive.
- Does your group have a complete email/phone list to communicate with group members?
- How will your group ensure the maximum number of people permitted in your meeting space? What happens when a newcomer shows up and the room capacity has been reached?
- How will your group ensure the appropriate social distance?
- How will your group ensure facemasks are worn?
- How will your group handle folks who refuse to comply with the social distancing regulations?
- Will your group eliminate the distribution of coffee and food?
- Will your group require members to have temperature checks, for instance, at home, before the meeting?
- How will your group sanitize contact surfaces before and after each meeting?
- What if someone in your group needs to be tested for COVID 19? Will you keep a record of each attendee at each meeting so they may be informed while waiting for results? At what point may this list be destroyed?
- What if contact tracing is necessary? How will your group help local health officials do contact tracing? Note: It is not necessary to break another member’s anonymity for contract tracing. Members may simply say they met as friends, or as part of a spiritual gathering.
- If passing a physical basket is impossible, how will your group collect Seventh-Tradition contributions? Has an electronic account been set up?
- How will physical materials (books, literature, meeting /phone lists, anniversary coins, meeting scripts and other reading materials) be handled? Can physical meeting materials be replaced with virtual ones?
- What will be your group’s policy if an attendee is openly sick (e.g., coughing and/or feverish)?
About Contact Tracing
Contact Tracing is a control measure employed by local and state health department personnel as a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.
Under Delaware’s contact tracing program, Delawareans who have tested positive for COVID-19 should expect a phone call from a case investigator asking for information which includes a list of the person’s known contacts. Contact tracers will then reach out to each of those contacts to help them safely quarantine, to find alternate arrangements as necessary, and to help them get tested for COVID-19, if recommended.
To ensure that our common welfare comes first, groups that meet in-person should have a contingency plan in place if a member tests positive for COVID-19. Contact tracers will be contacting the facility and the group no matter what, so it’s important that groups be prepared ahead of time with a way to protect everyone’s health and anonymity.
Contact tracers already practice a version of our principle of anonymity. They must abide by HIPAA laws, which means that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracers warn others of their potential exposure as rapidly and sensitively as possible, while protecting patient privacy and identity.
- How does the group accommodate members who are high risk? Older A.A. members, or those with compromised immune systems, may not be able or comfortable returning to your physical meeting until there is an effective COVID 19 vaccine.
- Does your meeting want to reopen the physical space and drop the online meeting when going back to the room meeting only? Or would it consider becoming a “hybrid” meeting which combines the in-person meeting with online access?
We are Responsible
Fortunately, newcomers have been getting sober in online meetings. What this pandemic has taught us is that there are many ways to connect and there are lots of ways to carry the message. While we all miss meeting safely in person, we have more tools available to us to stay sober. While online meetings do not replace the need for in-person meetings, they’ve added to all the ways that we can carry the message of hope and recovery to still suffering alcoholics and old-timers, alike. So, our decisions to re-open should be made carefully and deliberately. A higher power guides us through this process if we ask for help.
I am responsible…
When anyone, anywhere,
reaches out for help, I want
the hand of A.A. always to be there.
And for that: I am responsible.