The state has issued guidance on how houses of worship can reopen responsibly, but local health officials in Nashville are asking them not to. They say, what’s being done now is working. Stick with it.
Nashville medical director Michael Caldwell took questions from ministers on Thursday and recommended a cautious approach. For those who do want to gather in person, he says masks should be mandatory.
“It’s important because there are going to be more and more places where they will not let you in without the face mask. We’d like to encourage you to be one of those places,” Caldwell says. He suggests having a supply of cloth masks that have been laundered in case someone shows up uncovered.
The questions about capacity get thorny immediately. They recommend allowing only one person per every 200 square feet of space. But congregations also have to consider how the space is used. In a confined classroom, the limit might have to be even lower. Programming for children is discouraged entirely.
Metro public health officials discourage singing in close proximity, serving coffee or passing collection plates.
And Dr. Caldwell warns that every congregation will have members who get sick, so they need a written plan for how to track down who that person was in contact with.
Some churches represented in the meeting plan to open in the next few weeks on a limited basis. But Congregation Micah, a synagogue in southern Davidson County, is resisting the urge to gather and waiting until at least August.
“We don’t plan to be first to the party,” Rabbi Laurie Rice says. “It may sound conservative to you.”
Rice says summer is a slow period anyway as families travel. Even though that may not be the case this year, Rice says her members will connect virtually.
A group of leaders in the congregation decided the idea of limiting who attends became too difficult.
“We’re not in the business of monitoring people’s temperatures and contact tracing,” she says. “We’re either open or we’re not.”