LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Houses of worship throughout Kentucky will be allowed to reopen May 20, but state health guidelines released Friday require limited seating capacity and encourage avoiding congregational or choir singing during services, among other preventative measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear encouraged houses of worship that cannot meet the state's guidelines, which outline social distancing and sanitation measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, to not reopen and continue drive-in and virtual services.
"Listen to your faith leader," Beshear said. "If they tell you that they're not ready and if they don't think that it's safe, then you should wait."
Among the guidelines released Friday, courtesy of the state's official COVID-19 response website:
- Places of worship conducting in-person services should limit attendance to no more than 33% of the building occupancy capacity, including clergy and staff-employees, while maintaining social distance between household units of at least 6 feet. This means that there must be 6 feet between individuals on a row and individuals between rows, such that a 6-foot radius is maintained around all household units.
- Places of worship should ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that clergy, staff-employees, volunteers and congregants wear coverings (e.g., cloth mask or bandana) over their mouths and noses while attending services.
- Places of worship should wait to reopen youth services (including, but not limited to, Sunday schools) until child care services have reopened on June 15.
- Places of worship should avoid congregational or choir singing during services, as doing creates a higher risk of spreading infectious particles. Houses of worship should consider alternatives to congregational singing, including by playing prerecorded or live instrumental music (e.g. pianos and guitars - no wind instruments) during services
- Places of worship should consider taking congregants’ temperatures and asking about signs of illness before admitting them into the place of worship. If they do take temperatures, they should consider using a non-contact thermometer or thermal imager. If a place of worship must use a standard oral/aural thermometer, consider having the congregant take their own temperature and relay the information to maintain social distancing and sanitize the thermometer after each use.
- Places of worship should not allow individuals with elevated temperatures (100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or above) or signs of illness (coughing, shortness of breath, sneezing) to attend in-person services. Houses of worship should direct those having symptoms of COVID-19, as well as people who have had close contact with a person who has symptoms like dry cough, chest tightness and/or fever, to refrain from participating in any aspect of in-person services. Places of worship should encourage symptomatic persons to stay at home or seek immediate medical care or want to be tested.
- Places of worship making restrooms available must ensure restrooms are only used by one person at a time and all portions that are regularly touched (e.g., door, sink and toilet handles) are appropriately disinfected after each use.
- Places of worship conducting in-person services must, to the greatest extent practicable, provide hand sanitizer, handwashing facilities, tissues and waste baskets in convenient locations.
- Places of worship should not provide communal food or beverages to clergy, staff-employees, volunteers or congregants.
- Places of worship should restrict access to common areas, to the greatest extent practicable, in order to maximize social distancing and reduce congregating. These common areas include, but are not limited to, foyers, lobbies, vending areas, community and multi-purpose rooms, and event spaces.
- Because of the requirement to socially distance at least 6 feet apart, places of worship should refrain from the practice of handshaking, handholding or hugging.
- Places of worship should encourage those at higher risk for severe illness per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines not to attend in-person services.
- Places of worship must ensure facilities are properly cleaned and ventilated.
- Places of worship must ensure cleaning and sanitation of frequently touched surfaces with appropriate disinfectants. Appropriate disinfectants include EPA registered household disinfectants, diluted household bleach solution, and alcohol solutions containing at least 60% alcohol. Places of worship must establish a cleaning and disinfecting process that follows CDC guidelines when any individual is identified, suspected, or confirmed as COVID-19 positive.
"No one wants to rush back to worship just to cause more funerals. Worship is meant to be life-giving," said the Rev. Kent Gilbert, president of the Kentucky Council of Churches, in a news release. "These guidelines will help keep it that way in this time of pandemic illness.”
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