JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi health officials are recommending that churches and other religious organizations continue to hold off on hosting indoor worship services during the coronavirus pandemic, even after Gov. Tate Reeves relaxed regulations on other kinds of social gatherings.
“To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the vulnerable, the safest options continue to be virtual or outdoor services,” the state Health Department said in a news release this week detailing new guidelines for faith-based gatherings and worship.
Earlier this month, Reeves, a Republican, rolled back mask mandates on the state level and all capacity regulations for restaurants.
As for worship services, health officials say they recommend everyone 65 and older or 16 or older with high-risk medical conditions be fully vaccinated against coronavirus before attending indoor services.
All congregants should wear a face mask at all times during in-person services and Sunday school classes and maintain 6 feet of separation from people who don’t live in the same house as them. People should not gather in close groups while entering or exiting the building and should use hand sanitizer.
Singing at services is “a high-risk activity that can quickly spread viral particles,” officials said.
“It is preferable to not have choirs; however, if choirs are performing, they should be small in number, masked, and separated by six feet,” the Health Department said in the release.
Congregations should pursue alternatives to shared cups for communion, according to the department. Hymn and prayer books can be used if congregants sanitize their hands before use.
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