COVID-19 pandemic pits governor’s call for social distancing to stop the spread against pastors during Holy Week

INDIANAPOLIS — Thursday, Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D. issued guidance for places of worship in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Holcomb’s executive order 20-18 states all public and private gatherings, including religious and spiritual, should follow CDC guidance, which restricts gatherings to ten or less people. 

Full text of executive orders

Holcomb’s order states that church leaders want to continue serving their communities, faith institutions they have to take the following steps:

  • Church buildings and other physical locations for worship should be closed.
  • Livestream or other virtual services are best.
  • The minimum number of necessary personnel should be used at all times for any services.
  • Staff and volunteers who are not speaking should wear masks.

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Drive-in services may be conducted only under these conditions:

  • Attendees must be inside vehicles at all times.
  • Attendees should not interact physically with clergy, staff or participants in other vehicles.
  • Vehicles should contain only members of a single household. Do not bring your neighbors or others outside of your household.
  • Cars must be spaced the equivalent of every other parking spot or approximately 9 feet apart.
  • No one may exit a vehicle at any time.
  • Portable bathrooms are not allowed on the premises and no church facilities may be used by attendees.
  • It is preferred that no communion be distributed.
  • In instances when communion is distributed, only prepackaged communion may be used and must be prepared and distributed in a manner that meets food safety standards.

The following individuals who are vulnerable and at higher risk for illness should not attend:

  • Persons who are 65 years and older.
  • Those who have severe underlying medical conditions, like heart or lung disease or diabetes.
  • Individuals who are sick.

The CDC has provided the following guidance for the faith community.

“During this time of uncertainty, faith is more important than ever, and I am deeply grateful to our religious leaders for their efforts to find safe and creative ways to serve their communities,” Gov. Holcomb said. “The purpose of this guidance is not to restrict religious liberty, but to save lives during these extraordinary times. I look forward to the day where we can once again worship side-by-side without the threat of spreading coronavirus.”

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