AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued updated joint guidance on religious services, following the governor's announcement that the statewide "stay home" order will be allowed to expire on Thursday, April 30.
“Houses of worship face particular challenges as Texans work to combat this pandemic. This updated guidance provides clear direction to protect the health and safety of faith groups as they plan for future religious gatherings,” Paxton said. “All Texans must continue to work together to care for the health and safety of our neighbors as we work to reopen the state.”
The updated guidance states that houses of worship should conduct as many activities as possible remotely and should follow certain minimum health protocols when providing services in person. Those protocols include:
- Strongly encouraging the at-risk population to watch or participate in services remotely.
- Designating an area inside the facility reserved for the at-risk population or offering a service for at-risk population attendees only.
- Ensuring proper spacing between attendees by keeping at least two empty seats or six feet separation between parties in any row, except 1) if two or more members of the same household can sit adjacent to one another with two empty seats or six feet separation empty on either side or 2) two individuals who aren't members of the same household but are attending together can do the same.
The updated guidance also includes new guidelines for health protocols for employees, volunteers and the facilities themselves.
You can read more here or below:
One South Austin pastor believes that these changes give his congregation more freedom to choose whether they would like to attend his church, House of the Living God.
"I think with the governor's decision today, it will be easier for people to make a decision if they want to come to a church service versus before they were like, 'No, we're shut down, stay-at-home order.' I think now they'll be a little more comfortable," Jonathan Botello said.
His church has been planning a "tent revival" for a few months and he said their plan was to have people in their cars during these services. Even though now he could place chairs in the tent, he said he still plans to keep everyone in their cars for the time being.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county
- Coronavirus in Texas: Abbott reveals plan to reopen more Texas businesses, will allow 'stay home' order to expire April 30
- Round Rock nursing home confirms 46 people with coronavirus
- University of Texas, APH, ECHO, local health centers team up to provide COVID-19 emergency care shelter for Austin homeless
- Austin-Travis County continues to expand COVID-19 testing capabilities
- Moments of zen: Peace in Austin amidst the coronavirus pandemic
- Austin nonprofit to provide teletherapy for families during COVID-19