ST PAUL, Minn. — Starting on May 27, places of worship may open at 25% occupancy. That was the announcement made by Governor Tim Walz, Saturday.
With new guidance from the CDC and pressure from places of worship demanding to be deemed essential, Walz is allowing congregations to resume scheduled services under strict regulations.
"Physical distance of at least six feet must be maintained, with an absolute maximum of 250 people in a single self contained space," said Commissioner Jan Malcolm with the Minnesota Department of Health.
However, not every leader of faith is confident doors can be opened without significant health risk.
"I like to be led by the spirit and I don’t like to do what someone else is doing just for the sake of doing it," said Rev. Steven Daniels Jr., Senior Pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in St. Paul.
For Daniels, weighing the disparities of this virus is more than enough reason for them to keep their doors closed.
"Lets be honest, this virus has affected African Americans and minorities more so than anyone else," said Daniels. "One of the last things I want to happen at Shiloh is a faithful member come or a visitor comes or whoever comes and they get sick there."
While the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis made plans to reopen its parishes, other religious leaders say the risks of such gatherings are still too great.
“It is irresponsible to be inviting people right now to worship within the walls of our congregation’s building,” the Rev. Timothy Hart-Andersen, senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis, wrote in an e-mail.
The Star Tribune is reporting that the 42 rabbis of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association were unanimous in saying they will not yet open their religious facilities since “the peak of COVID-19 has yet to come.”
And, the Muslim American Society of Minnesota said it’s keeping its places of worship closed “until infection rates are reliably reported to decline in Minnesota.”
While some places of worship will choose to return to a new norm, state officials want you to keep in mind the reality of what's happening with the spread of the virus.
"The worst is not yet passed in terms of infections and infection rates and we’re learning more every day," said Gov. Walz.
Minnesota health officials on Sunday confirmed 730 new cases of the coronavirus, raising the statewide total to more than 20,500.
The updated report includes 17 deaths from COVID-19, for a statewide total of 869.
Those numbers reflect why churches like Shiloh will stick to virtual services while waiting to see how things play out.
"We want to make sure that we feel good about it and we have taken every precaution that we can take for the safety of the people," said Daniels.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.