HENRICO COUNTY, Va.-- As churches navigated the first Sunday of Virginia's Phase One of reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some houses of worship were ready to reopen their doors, but others chose to stay closed for now.
Pastor Will Clements with Freedom Church in Henrico said staffers rearranged seating, added sanitation stations and provided masks in compliance with Gov. Ralph Northam's directions.
"When the pandemic hit and we were kinda forced to go live stream it, it actually helped us in a way," Clements said. "But obviously we feel like there is just something different about being together in person. As the pastor I want to have a balance of, we don’t want anybody to feel pressure like they have to be in person -- and that's why we’re going to continue live streaming."
Other churches like Saint Paul's Baptist kept their three campuses closed for now.
Senior Pastor Lance Watson said that while they miss their members, they want to proceed with caution for a number of reasons.
"[With] an increasing infection rate, even though it's growing very slowly, thank God for that," Watson said. "Also because of limited testing that has been done in our communities"
Watson said he and several other faith leaders in the Richmond area supported Mayor Levar Stoney's call to request for a delay for reopening especially because of the disproportionate rate at which African Americans are being affected by COVID-19.
Watson said that while Saint Paul's has a plan for reopening, there is no rush to implement it.
"It's going to be prudent and cautious and slow," Watson explained. "Our first item on the agenda is not trying to gather everybody again physically for worship because there are so many protocols that need to be addressed in order to make sure that is a safe gathering."
But regardless of how faith leaders decided to tackle Phase One, church leaders said they want their congregants to stay encouraged.
"It's in Him that we live that we move and have our being," Clements adeed.
"We’re going to get through this," Watson said. "And we’ll all come out of it a better community, a better city, better counties [and] better families than we were when we went into it."
Churches in localities that have entered Phase One must follow the mandated requirements listed in Executive Order 61. Click here for more information.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.