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Guidelines offered for churches planning to reopen in May

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Guidelines for churches that may be resuming regular services inside their facilities next month were offered at Thursday’s Laclede County COVID-19 briefing. The Laclede County Health Department released recommendations for churches and encouraged them to do a “soft opening” no sooner than the weekend of May 2 and 3 to have adequate time to prepare their facilities and educate their parishioners. The Health Department said churches should encourage families to sit together as a family unit but be seated at least 6 feet from other families. Also, hugs and hand shakes should be strongly discouraged for the next few weeks. Other recommendations included: If someone chooses to wears a face covering it should be allowed.

Post Social Distancing reminders on doors, on video screens and make announcements. Sign 
might also include “If you are ill we invite you to join us for worship online until you are 
feeling better.” Churches should try and limit their attendance to 30 percent of their seating capacity. It is recommended that churches not hold Sunday School or small groups, special dinners or events that would bring a crowd through May. It is recommended that churches not offer nursery or children's church ministries through May. 
Churches were asked to offer plenty of hand sanitizer and shorten service times to 45 minutes or less in order to cut down the exposure time and to decrease the number of people needing to use the rest room. It is suggested to not “Pass The Offering Plate” from person to person. If a church offers communion, it is recommended to use individual communion packets. 
 Speaking at Thursday's briefing, the Rev. Don Anderson said the guidelines are not an all-clear for all churches to now reopen. He said every church was different and would need to be responsible for opening up when they believe they can keep members safe.

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