MILWAUKEE — Doctors, health officials, and Mayor Tom Barrett held a virtual Q&A session with local leaders in the faith community on Friday, aimed at providing critical information that can help reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 during religious services.
During the virtual meeting, Dr. Laura Cassidy of the Medical College of Wisconsin stressed the importance of wearing face masks, washing hands, and social distancing.
"It’s really important to let your congregation know what is expected when they come," Dr. Cassidy told attendees.
Mayor Tom Barrett used the opportunity to remind leaders of churches and other places of worship that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that spreads through droplets, which makes churches a place the virus is very likely to spread quickly if proper precautions are not taken.
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"The singing, the hugging, all of that interaction, which is very human and that's very real, is exactly what we are trying to avoid right now," said Mayor Barrett.
Marlania Jackson, the Deputy Commissioner of Community Health for the City of Milwaukee echoed that message. She said planning is essential.
She said having a point-person who is up to date on CDC and local health department guidelines, a cleaning strategy, and a quarantine plan in place should someone get sick is all critical to re-opening safely.
"Your railings, your bibles, your pews, all of those need to be cleaned as frequently as possible," said Jackson.
Under phase 3 of the city's re-opening plan, faith-based organizations are allowed to operate at 25% capacity, according to Jackson.
Under Phase 4, which the city's commissioner of health may decide to move to Friday, the capacity jumps to 50%.
However, local Pastor Walter Lanier of Progressive Baptist Church said he is not in a rush to return to regular church services, saying he is led by both science and God. He has offered online church services and meetings using Zoom and social media platforms since march. He said he recognizes that there's a risk associated with rushing back to normalcy.
'I don’t have an urgency, nor does the congregation have an urgency to run that risk," said Pastor Lanier.