We all know this flu season has been one of the worst in several years. I have experienced this personally, as I have been diagnosed, in two separate illnesses, with the two strains of the flu that are most prevalent. I know from firsthand experience that this year's flu can find you in the emergency room suddenly.

The CDC is reporting that "a total of 17,101 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported between October 1, 2017 and February 3, 2018. The overall hospitalization rate was 59.9 per 100,000 population."

If our goal as a church community is to be a safe space for all who enter, we must also be a healthy space for those who enter. Here are some strategies communities can try to create healthy practices at the height of flu season:

Practice good hygiene. Now would be a good time to post good hand-washing signs in restrooms and have hand sanitizers in strategic locations to support good hygiene. This is a good practice to have year round, but especially during flu season.

Reconsider the "welcome time" routine. If shaking hands is part of your welcome time or passing the peace, during this time of germ concern, it might be a time to modify this routine. Maybe a peace sign, an elbow bump or some other appropriate sign would be a necessary seasonal change.

Communicate. As you make these small changes, it is also a good time to communicate healthy practices to your community. Connect with your local health agencies and get the latest information on resources to share with your community as you inform them of the ongoing efforts that the church community is doing to make the season a healthy one.

Train employees and volunteers. Health practices should be part of the ongoing training of your staff and volunteers, and there is no better time to refresh these practices than during flu season. Make sure nursery staff is following health and safety practices, watching for signs of illness, and sanitizing spaces. Make sure all staff and volunteers are protecting themselves and others with hand-washing practices and self-care routines.

Stay home. Lastly, emphasize to your staff, volunteers and church members that if they do get sick that it is important for them to stay home. It is one of the best things they can do for their fellow community members. Staying home when they are ill contains the germs and prevents illness from spreading. If you haven't already, it might be a good time to think about how to bring some of the worship or community elements to those who are ill when they can't be present.

This flu season is not over yet, and I wish you wellness and health. This flu is nothing to mess around with.