How To Be As Safe As Possible In Your House Of Worship

How To Be As Safe As Possible In Your House Of Worship In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the Sunshine Cathedral holds a drive-in Easter service in its parking lot. Each car received a Ziploc bag with a prayer card, palm leaf and pre-packaged communion. Getty Images / Joe Raedle

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released what it calls “general considerations” on safe actions for reopening houses of worship, but worship communities can accept or reject those considerations.

Religious worship allows tens of millions of Americans to demonstrate devotion to a higher power. It gives people an opportunity to commit – and recommit – to a set of values. In-person services foster a sense of community and belonging. Unfortunately for millions whose lives are enriched by communal worship, traditional services are ideal places for virus transmission: lots of people, close together.

As a physician specializing in internal medicine, I suggest, for now at least, that we reexamine how we worship. After all, what better way to embody the values of your faith than to take steps to protect one another?

Even with the uncertainty and variability of reopening plans, scientifically and medically sound information is available. For starters, you’ll want to assess your individual risk, the prevalence of the virus in your area and the availability of testing.

How To Be As Safe As Possible In Your House Of Worship A worshiper raises her hand to the skies at a drive-in service in Louisville, Kentucky. Getty Images / Andy Lyons

The four pillars

You may consider guidelines suggested by Dr. Atul Gawande, noted surgeon and author. He proposes four essential pillars for safe reentry into communal spaces: hygiene, distancing, screening and mask use.

All four must operate together to minimize transmission. Will your place of worship be able to enact these pillars?

 Get The Latest From InnerSelf

For example: Will you have easy access to hand-washing or sanitizing? Will communal surfaces and shared spaces be wiped down? Will attendance be limited to allow distancing, and will attendees be screened with temperature checks and self-screening questionnaires? Will your place of worship enforce mask use and distancing? Anything short of all four pillars increases transmission risk.

And even with all the precautions, people with infections can be asymptomatic – so despite the screening measures, you can’t be sure who has the virus and whether you might become exposed.

How To Be As Safe As Possible In Your House Of Worship Palestinian Muslim worshipers, distanced from each other due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, pray outside the closed Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 19, 2020. Ahmad Gharabli AFP via Getty Images)

Today’s services: Short, outside – and cut the choir

Other factors influence viral spread. The dose you receive is higher when you’re close to someone not wearing a face covering. Someone sneezing and coughing increases the number of virus particles near you. Singing or speaking forcefully releases more virus than speaking quietly. Outdoor rates of transmission are much lower than those indoors.

That’s why it’s best if services are short, outdoors and with no singing or physical contact. Only a limited number of attendees, spaced widely and wearing masks properly, would participate.

Early in the pandemic, faith leaders adapted their services: removing holy water, forbidding handshakes, limiting group size and livestreaming. Buddhist monks seeking alms wore face shields. But others protested any restrictions.

In dealing with the virus, we still have much to learn. But values common to all religions exist – compassion, kindness, respect for fellow humans and some variation of the Golden Rule. Until more is known about COVID-19, let’s choose a path following one of the major tenets of my profession: First, do no harm.

About The Author

Claudia Finkelstein, Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recommended Books: Health

Fresh Fruit CleanseFresh Fruit Cleanse: Detox, Lose Weight and Restore Your Health with Nature's Most Delicious Foods [Paperback] by Leanne Hall.
Lose weight and feel vibrantly healthy while clearing your body of toxins. Fresh Fruit Cleanse offers everything you need for an easy and powerful detox, including day-by-day programs, mouth-watering recipes, and advice for transitioning off the cleanse.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Thrive FoodsThrive Foods: 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health [Paperback] by Brendan Brazier.
Building upon the stress-reducing, health-boosting nutritional philosophy introduced in his acclaimed vegan nutrition guide Thrive, professional Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier now turns his attention to your dinner plate (breakfast bowl and lunch tray too).
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

Death by Medicine by Gary NullDeath by Medicine by Gary Null, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Carolyn Dean
The medical environment has become a labyrinth of interlocking corporate, hospital, and governmental boards of directors, infiltrated by the drug companies. The most toxic substances are often approved first, while milder and more natural alternatives are ignored for financial reasons. It's death by medicine.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.


follow InnerSelf on


 Get The Latest By Email



The Day Of Reckoning Has Come For The GOP
by Robert Jennings,
The Republican party is no longer a pro-America political party. It is an illegitimate pseudo-political party full of radicals and reactionaries whose stated goal is to disrupt, destabilize, and…
Why Donald Trump Could Be History's Biggest Loser
by Robert Jennings,
Updated July 2, 20020 - This whole coronavirus pandemic is costing a fortune, maybe 2 or 3 or 4 fortunes, all of unknown size. Oh yeah, and, hundreds of thousands, maybe a million, of people will die…
Blue-Eyes vs Brown Eyes: How Racism is Taught
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
In this 1992 Oprah Show episode, award-winning anti-racism activist and educator Jane Elliott taught the audience a tough lesson about racism by demonstrating just how easy it is to learn prejudice.
A Change Is Gonna Come...
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
(May 30, 2020) As I watch the news on the events in Philadephia and other cities in the country, my heart aches for what is transpiring. I know that this is part of the greater change that is taking…
A Song Can Uplift the Heart and Soul
by Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf
I have several ways that I use to clear the darkness from my mind when I find it has crept in. One is gardening, or spending time in nature. The other is silence. Another way is reading. And one that…