Sunday, Jul 12, 2020

Reopening Churches: How to Meet Safely When the Doors of the Church Reopen

A global health expert suggests a phased plan for congregations gathering again amid this pandemic.

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Over the past four months, the spread of a new coronavirus has exploded across the globe, leaving packed ERs, ICU patients on ventilators, and families grieving over the loss of their loved ones.

To limit the spread of this virus, most governments implemented strict stay-at-home orders. This very blunt instrument was necessary because many countries were simply unprepared for the rapid spread of this virus. If nothing was done, the rising number of infections would have overwhelmed health care systems, and deaths would have quickly escalated.

During this period, churches across the US and around the world have closed their doors to in-person worship and ministries. As with many preventive actions, we may never know how this has limited the spread of COVID-19.

But as a global health professional who has worked for 25 years to control diseases around the world, I am certain that this has prevented many infections and deaths that would have occurred among congregants and their families and friends.

After six or more weeks of stay-at-home orders in the US, unemployment claims are piling up, people are getting antsy in their homes, and loud voices are increasingly calling for governments to relax their restrictions.

Public health experts warn that the US lacks the testing, contact tracing, and quarantining capabilities needed to bring and keep the pandemic under control, yet some states are already loosening their restrictions and allowing “nonessential” businesses to reopen.

Our churches are now facing a set of difficult decisions: when to resume in-person ministries and how to carry out these ministries safely.

I propose that the way forward is to take a step-by-step approach that helps …

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