Everything you need to know about the SGI-USA’s phased plan to safely reopen our Buddhist centers.
by the SGI-USA National Team
In March 2020, when the SGI-USA halted all in-person activities to slow the spread of COVID-19, it did so with the health and safety of each person foremost in mind. It continues to be our top priority.
Representative leaders from around the country met virtually on June 12 to discuss in depth how to safely reopen our Buddhist Centers in gradual phases, starting in August.
While we hope to welcome everyone back to our centers as soon as possible, at this initial stage of reopening, after having been closed for 15 months, the SGI-USA Central Executive Committee (CEC) unanimously approved that only persons vaccinated against COVID-19 be allowed into our centers at this time.
This decision was made solely based on member safety; no other considerations were involved. The decision was thoroughly discussed, and many different factors and viewpoints were considered, including the fact that vaccinations can be a controversial topic.
Ultimately, the CEC decided that the initial reopening of our centers must be done in the most cautious manner, starting only with fully vaccinated persons.
Of course, the decision to be vaccinated is up to each individual, and no one should be judged for not getting vaccinated. The SGI-USA will continue to have virtual meetings until we can reopen fully. We respect everyone’s personal decision and will continue to make member safety the highest priority. With the well-being of members foremost in mind, the initial phase is outlined in the following article.
1. SGI-USA Buddhist centers will be reopened for in-person activities in phases. News about the reopening of your local SGI-USA center will come from your local leadership team. (Please do not visit your local center unless you have received communication that it is open.)
2. Proof of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccination will be required to enter an SGI-USA center. The SGI-USA Digital ID Card, accessible through the SGI-USA app, is being upgraded to easily submit proof of vaccination. (See below for instructions.)
3. Designated centers will host activities on Sundays for Kosen-rufu Gongyo meetings and Soka Spirit Encouragement meetings only. All other activities will continue to be conducted via Zoom.
Please note: There will be no in-person activities outside of SGI-USA centers.
Vaccination Requirement: To ensure the health and safety of all those who attend in-person activities at an SGI-USA center, proof of CDC-approved vaccines is a requirement. There will be no exceptions to this policy.
Am I fully vaccinated?
In general, people are considered fully vaccinated:
• two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or;
• two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine. If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are not fully vaccinated.
Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
How to Upload Your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card to the SGI-USA Portal
1. Starting June 21, the SGI-USA Member Portal has been enhanced for members to upload an image of their CDC-approved COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.
2. To upload, log in to the member portal at portal.sgi-usa.org/portal.
3. You will be prompted to upload a photo of your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (verification may take up to five days). If you have not yet uploaded a profile photo for your digital ID, you must first complete this step.
4. You can verify your vaccine status: On your “My Account” page under “Profile Information,” your vaccine status will be shown after “Division.” (Please note: To protect your privacy, your vaccination card will be deleted after it’s verified.)
On Your SGI-USA Digital ID Card
Your SGI-USA Digital ID Card is contained on the SGI-USA app.
I have the SGI-USA app on my smart device:
• If you do not have the latest version of the app, please delete and redownload it.
I don’t have the SGI-USA app on my smart device:
• Open the App Store (on iPhone) or Google Play Store (on Android).
• Search for “SGI-USA.”
• Hit “Download” and follow the prompts.
Before you enter a Buddhist center, open your SGI-USA app and select your Digital ID Card in the bottom right-hand corner. A green background indicates your vaccine status is verified. Please show your ID to the assigned personnel and enjoy your meeting! Please see important additional information in the section “Safely Holding Meetings at SGI-USA Centers.”
Safely Holding Meetings at SGI-USA Centers
When will my center reopen?
The SGI-USA centers will reopen in phases, starting Aug. 1, at designated SGI-USA centers.
What kind of meetings will be held at designated SGI-USA centers?
We will hold monthly Kosen-rufu Gongyo meetings and weekly Soka Spirit Encouragement meetings on Sundays.
Do I have to wear a mask even though I am fully vaccinated?
Please follow local government guidelines for wearing masks. If local guidelines allow, then it is up to each person’s discretion whether to wear a mask. We ask that attendees not be judgmental one way or the other as people have different health considerations and comfort levels.
What if I forget or don’t have a digital ID to enter my center?
All people who enter a center must show proof of vaccination. There are no exceptions to this policy. For those who either forgot or do not have an SGI-USA Digital ID, please present your original COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (no photo copy) and proof of a government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver’s license). This may cause a delay in being able to attend meetings that day.
Can I bring a guest to my local center?
Yes, but they are asked to follow the same guidelines. Since guests do not have access to an SGI-USA Digital ID, they will be asked to present their original COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (no photo copy) and proof of a government-issued photo ID (e.g., driver’s license). All guests should be escorted by a member who knows them.
Important: Please let your guest know about these procedures before coming to a center. Walk-in guests will not be permitted, but we can give them literature and connect them with a local leader.
What if I have underlying health conditions and decide not to get vaccinated, or I have been advised by a health care professional not to do so?
Since all members who enter a center must be fully vaccinated, we encourage you to continue participating in SGIUSA activities by Zoom. To ensure the overall safety and well-being of all those who come to a designated center, we cannot make any exceptions to this policy at this time.
What about youth who may not have had the opportunity to get vaccinated yet?
All members of any age who enter a center must be fully vaccinated without exception. Youth who have not been fully vaccinated will not be permitted to enter a center. As a reminder, COVID-19 vaccines are now available for people ages 12 and older. For children under the age of 12, vaccines will likely become available in the near future.
What about future division members who have been vaccinated but do not have a digital ID? (for those in elementary, junior high and high schools).
For future division members who do not have an SGI-USA Digital ID, they or their parent/guardian (if present) must present their original COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.
I’m fully vaccinated but hesitant to attend in-person meetings at a center.
At this time, only Kosen-rufu Gongyo meetings and Soka Spirit Encouragement meetings will be held in person at our centers. All other meetings, including our monthly discussion meetings, will be held virtually for the time being. We encourage you to continue participating in these core activities!
FAQs for Meetings Outside of SGI-USA Centers
Can we hold in-person meetings outside of SGI-USA centers?
At this initial stage, the SGI-USA is not holding any in-person meetings outside of designated centers.
Can I visit another member at their home?
At this initial stage, the SGI-USA does not encourage in-person home visits. The “HOMS” guidelines remain in place. “HOMS” Guidelines For home visitations, let’s strictly observe the following guidelines:
H for “Healthy”—Both participants should be healthy (and of course, no “surprise” visits in these circumstances).
O for “Outdoors”—Do not visit indoors.
M for “Masked”—Definitely no visits allowed unless both parties wear masks.
S for “Socially Distanced”—Keep 6 feet of distance at all times.
Florida Nature and Culture Center Reopening
The Florida Nature and Culture Center, the SGI-USA Buddhist retreat center in Weston, Florida, will reopen at limited capacity sometime in the fall, pending no upticks in COVID-19 cases and other relevant factors. More details to come.
Do I have to be vaccinated to visit an SGI-USA bookstore?
From Aug. 1, all individuals who enter SGI-USA centers must be fully vaccinated, including those who visit a bookstore inside a center. From Aug. 1, designated SGI-USA bookstores will be open only on Sundays, in conjunction with Kosen-rufu Gongyo meetings and Soka Spirit Encouragement meetings. No appointment is necessary.
See the SGI-USA video on reopening our centers at an upcoming Soka Spirit Encouragement meeting.
Choosing Safer Activities
The SGI-USA reopening plan is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.