Updated: AZC’s COVID Protocols & Reopening

Question: Once I am vaccinated, will I be able to come sit in the zendo?

Thank you to everyone who has been inquiring about returning to AZC to sit inside the zendo. For those of you who have already received a vaccination, how wonderful! We imagine it being hugely relieving to be < 95% protected from becoming ill with covid symptoms.

Please know that we deeply share your wish to once again be able to sit at the temple. Based on our CDC & APD-informed covid protocols, it has been since mid-March that we’ve been able to sit in the zendo ourselves, and we can say it’s been very challenging to be so remote.

Our policy has been that no one is allowed to enter the building except for:

1. Residents who live inside the main building
2. Those required to support special ceremonies
3. Contractors working on repairs & maintenance

We are currently developing protocols to allow for our *fully vaccinated* members and supporters to participate in a gradual re-opening. This re-opening is currently on pause, as we await news from local health officials. Even though the re-opening is on pause, you can prepare for it by scrolling down and registering with your proof of vaccination.  When it is safe to do so, we will have in-person indoor events as we build back our volunteer crew of ceremonial attendants (Doanryo) who support our daily activities of zazen and chanting services. We will remain closed to the wider public until Austin Public Health returns to a risk-factor of Stage One. If you need to come into the AZC office, please be sure to read the AZC OFFICE COVID Protocols.

We apologize for any distress this may cause. Please rest assured that our intention is to re-open as soon as we’re confident about not putting our residents and other sangha members at undue risk for illness.

We thank you for your enthusiasm and interest in returning to AZC for zazen. Please know it is shared by many of us! In the meantime, stay tuned here on our website for future developments, fill out our re-opening survey HERE, and we hope you join us in our online zendo.

With warm bows,
Rev. Dōshin Mako Voelkel
Head Teacher of AZC

Update on August 20th, 2021:

Greetings,

We hope this email finds you and your family well. This is a post-interim update about Austin Zen Center’s current (and ever-changing!) COVID-19 protocols. We are committed to the health and safety of our communities, including our residents, staff, and wider sangha. We are also committed to continuing to offer the Dharma to encourage, inspire, and support us to meet these challenging times with wisdom, compassion, and skillful means.

As you may know, AZC had recently reopened for in-person sitting for those confirmed as fully vaccinated. We remain committed to carefully monitoring COVID-19 cases locally as well as adhering to APH’s guidelines. When Travis County went to Stage 4 we began following protocols requiring masks, modifying chanting services, asking in-person folks displaying any COVID symptoms to stay home, and to let us know ASAP if they’ve tested positive for COVID in order to alert those who may have been exposed to get tested and reduce possible spread. Unfortunately, a week before our scheduled Summer Interim, Travis County reached Stage 5 COVID-19 risk and we made the call to return to [Online Sitting ONLY] (https://austinzencenter.org/join-the-azc-online-zendo/) until we could reassess after returning from interim, as especially once visiting teachers Kokyo Henkel and Shoho Kubast arrived in Austin. Our Sangha Work Day & Welcome Lunch scheduled for Saturday August 21st had to be cancelled, and we will instead be holding a Conversation Café on the topic of our choosing. We are investigating ways to move forward with Rev. Kokyo’s 5-day Genzo-e sesshin in a safe manner: possibly in-person for fully vaccinated folks who also test negative on a (provided) antigen test, or as an online-only retreat, and/or with a reduced schedule (no oryoki meals and no chanting services).

We will continue to reassess our in-person and outdoor offerings as Travis County and APH navigates ever-changing COVID risk. As for reopening more fully to the general public, that option will be considered when Travis County COVID cases have significantly decreased. And, as we move towards cooler autumn temperatures, we look forward to more outdoor gatherings and sitting.

We apologize for any confusion and disappointment, and encourage folks to take good care of yourselves and all those around you by getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, staying distanced, and getting tested if and when exposed to positive cases.

Warmly bowing,
Rev. Mako Voelkel
AZC Head Teacher