One day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance allowing for reopening places of worship, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan recently announced they have partnered with Minnesota faith leaders on a plan for places of worship who decide to open to do so as safely as possible.

Through consultation with Minnesota faith leaders, the Minnesota Department of Health has developed additional guidance for faith-based communities, places of worship and services.

According to the announcement, places of worship may open at 25 percent occupancy if they adhere to social distancing and other public health guidelines to keep congregants safe.

“I have had many meaningful conversations with faith leaders over the last few weeks,” Walz said. “From a personal and public health perspective, the decision around places of worship has been a challenging one since the beginning of the pandemic. We know large gatherings of people raise the risk of spreading COVID-19."

“We also know worship is an essential part of many Minnesotans’ lives, including mine. Minnesotans have made great sacrifices to protect their neighbors by staying home,” Walz continued. “I understand the toll the pandemic has taken on the spiritual health of Minnesotans. As the CDC allows for places of worship to reopen, I have partnered with faith leaders to ensure there are clear public health guidelines to do so as safely as possible.”

“Each step we take brings risk and responsibility for all,” Walz added. “My family will continue to practice our faith via video at home. I urge all Minnesotans to continue to limit their in-person interactions with people outside of their households, and I strongly urge Minnesotans at heightened risk to stay home. Those who disregard public health guidance endanger not only themselves, but their families and their neighbors.”

To update this guidance, the governor recently signed executive order 20-62 amending his previous orders in order to allow for safe worship, weddings as well as funerals.

“As a person of faith, it is hard to be separated from community at this time,” Flanagan said. “I urge all Minnesotans to remember that the best way to love their neighbor right now is by practicing good public health. With the CDC issuing new guidance, I hope our plan announced today will help ensure Minnesotans who wish to worship in person can do so as safely as possible.”

According to the order, places of worship, funeral homes and other venues that offer gathering space for weddings, funerals and planned services, such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, scripture studies, may host such services with more than 10 people, provided that they adhere to the below requirements:

• In all settings, ensure a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing between households.

• In indoor settings, occupancy must not exceed 25 percent of the normal occupant capacity as determined by the fire marshal, with a maximum of 250 people in a single self-contained space.

• In outdoor settings, gatherings must not exceed 250 individuals.

• Develop and implement a COVID-19 preparedness plan in accordance with guidance developed by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Find more information at www.health.state.mn.us.

– Photo courtesy of the Internet Public Domain