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On March 27, 2020, Executive Order #121 was released from the Governor’s Office. This order directs people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. Specifically, the order bans gatherings of more than 10 people, and directs everyone to physically stay at least six feet apart from others. Essential businesses as defined in Executive Order #121 may remain open. Other non-essential businesses must remain closed unless permitted by the Secretary of Revenue. This order began at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 30, 2020 and is in effect until April 29, 2020. Religious entities are considered an essential operation, but their functions are subject to the limitation on events or convenings. This means that no more than 10 people are permitted in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.
Under this executive order, All COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations are, to the extent practicable, maintain the Social Distancing Requirements.
Based on the above information, Wilkes Health is recommending that religious organizations follow the state or local executive order, whichever is more restrictive. Based on the Frequently Asked Questions, religious organizations are required to follow the mass gathering rule. Wilkes Health wants to encourage religious organizations to consider alternative means for their congregations. Consider options like streaming services, connecting by phone, or using other technologies that support social distancing. While we understand faith based gatherings are an essential part of our community, especially right now at Easter, we are making this recommendation to ensure the health and safety of our community. The sole responsibility is also not on the churches, we are also recommending that individuals stay at home during this time.