Monroe County’s Commissioner of Public Health has some words of caution for churchgoers. Dr. Michael Mendoza is putting out the advisory because of a growing number of coronavirus cases that seem to be connected to churches.
Mendoza said he understands that religious worship has a profoundly important role in the lives of many people, and especially during the pandemic, that worship can be a great source of support and comfort.
But the health commissioner also said there are some risks in those gatherings, noting that a recent study in Maryland found that people who frequently attend church may be more likely to test positive for COVID-19. Mendoza said that locally, we have seen an increase in cases possibly linked to people going to church.
“Over the past month or so, we have counted at least 70 cases of COVID-19 in Monroe County that are connected to individuals who regularly go to church, or who have been in close contact with a family member, a co-worker, or a friend who does.” Mendoza said at this point, he hasn’t seen a spike in cases at synagogues, mosques or other houses of worship, but he feels those communities may be facing similar challenges.
Mendoza is reminding people about recommendations from federal and state health officials including wearing masks in church, maintaining social distances between people who are not part of the same household and blocking off every other row of seating.
He also listed other recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and the New York State Department of Health:
- Avoiding buffet or family-style meals.
- Limiting physical contact such as shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
- Increasing social distancing to 12 feet when singing, dancing or playing wind instruments.
- Using pre-recorded music, or replacing choirs with soloists or small groups of musicians.
- Asking staff and congregants to stay home if they are sick or have had close contact with an individual infected with COVID-19.
- Implementing best practices for nursery/childcare services, volunteer duties (e.g. greeters, ushers), and cleaning and disinfection during the pandemic.