Delaware places of worship allowed to hold expanded services as coronavirus cases keep climbing
Gov. John Carney released new guidance for places of worship on Monday, allowing groups to host expanded in-person religious services under certain restrictions.
Under the guidance, gatherings must be limited to 30% of the fire code capacity and "strict" social distancing must be maintained. In-person services were previously limited to 10 people at a time.
Service times must also be staggered for the area to be cleaned. The exchanging of "materials of any kind during services is strongly discouraged," according to the guidance.
Baptisms, weddings and funerals are allowed if the services follow these new rules. The state is still encouraging houses of worship to hold virtual services.
The state is also telling high-risk residents, particularly those over 65 years old and those who are sick, to not attend in-person services. Those over age 13 must wear face coverings.
This announcement came as the state reported Monday that a total of 7,869 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Delaware, an addition of 199 cases from the previous day.
Seven more people have died from the virus, increasing the death toll to 297.
State officials said 240 people are hospitalized, an increase of 11 from the previous day. Of these cases, 39 people are in critical condition.
In total, the state has performed 42,458 tests since the pandemic struck locally.
In April, Carney modified the state's emergency order to require houses of worship — which are considered to be essential — to comply with all social distancing restrictions, which included the attendance of no more than 10 people for in-person services.
Last week, Carney announced plans to reopen some businesses, including restaurants, on June 1, though under certain restrictions.
Yet in recent days, groups have threatened to sue the governor over these restrictions. At a protest rally in Rehoboth Beach this past weekend, some expressed their anger over not being able to attend religious services.
One woman had a sign that read "Jesus is essential."
In an interview with Delaware Online/The News Journal on Monday, Carney said his own mother has been frustrated by the previous restrictions.
"Listen, I hear from my mother almost every day," Carney said. "She wants to get back to Mass that she attends daily at Saint Ann's Church. She was very upset with me over the weekend about it.
"When your mother says that, you take it to heart," he added. "Not that I didn't before. So I understand why people want to get back to something that's central to their being, and their constitutional right."
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 324-2386 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @merenewman.