CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Saturday that houses of worship can reopen for services as long as 50 or fewer people are allowed in, they are at least six feet apart and other protective measures are followed.
The mayor’s plan, dubbed “Be Safe. Places of Worship,” also restricts capacity to 25 percent for smaller buildings where 50 people would exceed that percentage.
Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship have been blocked from having in-person services for months as part of the stay home order put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.
With the number of cases and deaths slowing and hospitals able to handle the current number of cases, Chicago and the state entered into Phase 3 of the reopening plan in the past week.
“For people of faith, worshipping together is an essential function, and I am grateful for the Chicagoans of faith who explored new ways to celebrate their beliefs virtually in the interest of the health and safety of everyone during the stay at home order,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “As we take this next step into Phase 3 of reopening, we can cautiously return to in-person services to bring our communities back together and begin to heal from the past few months.”
As part of the guidelines, religious organizations must follow these protocols:
- No more than 50 individuals in a room if distancing is followed;
- Stagger ingress and egress times to avoid checkpoint crowding;
- Frequently disinfect facilities;
- Provide sanitation stations available throughout facilities;
- Wear facial coverings;
- Spread out seating by 6 feet to promote social distancing; and
- Post visual signage throughout the facility regarding hygiene, social distancing and proper PPE among others.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, urged leaders to follow the orders.
“As we cautiously reopen, we want people to start doing the things that bring them peace and joy, but to do so safely and smartly,” said Arwady. “If we don’t continue to take these important precautions, we could very well see a resurgence in cases that would mean more infections and more deaths.”
The city, however, warned the elderly and people with underlying health conditions to not attend services in person, and instead rely on TV, radio or online services.
“As houses of worship are given clearance to open their doors to fifty people or less, I passionately ask faith leaders to carefully examine the cause and effect of allowing people into the building; permission does not mean you must participate,” said Rev. L. Bernard Jakes, senior pastor of West Point Missionary Baptist Church. “Faith leaders have found a myriad of ways to adapt for the past eleven weeks, and another few weeks could save the life or lives of parishioners, as well as their families, especially our most vulnerable.”
To download a copy of the “Be Safe. Places of Worship” guidelines or to learn about the City of Chicago’s Cautiously Reopen plans in other sectors, visit www.chicago.gov/reopening
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