Churches and religious gatherings have been linked to deadly outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Texas Declares Religious Services “Essential” During COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 31, Texas Governor Greg Abbot issued an executive order to add religious services to the list of “essential services.”
Texas also issued new Guidance for Houses of Worship During the COVID-19 Crisis, urging faith leaders to “love our neighbors and slow the spread of Coronavirus.”
What is the Problem?
Religious services and gatherings are a potential “hotbed” of coronavirus outbreaks. In April 2020, a pastor in Georgia died of coronavirus at the Palmer Grove Baptist Church. The outbreak also infected several members of the congregation.
A large Russian-language church in California was also linked to at least 70 coronavirus infections. The church said it closed its doors on March 18, but multiple groups continued to meet in each others’ homes.
Texas Religious Organizations Urged to Prevent COVID-19
Religious organizations are urged to conduct as many activities as possible remotely, and take steps to prevent the spread of COVID19:
- Strongly encourage high-risk people to watch services remotely, or designate an area of the church for high-risk people
- Practice good hygiene and encourage hand-washing
- Keep the church environment clean
- Implement social distancing (2 empty seats between parties in any row, or 6 feet)
- Urge sick people to stay home
- Avoid large gatherings by increasing the number of services
- Avoid personal-touch elements of a service
Symptoms of Coronavirus for Church Workers
The official COVID-19 guidance for churches in Texas includes recommendations to send home any church employee or volunteer who has symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Feeling feverish or measuring a temperature over 100ºF
- Known close contact with a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19