Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020

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Governor allows religious gatherings in Phase 2 to welcome more people

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Churches, mosques and temples in Spokane can welcome more people to indoor services after Gov. Jay Inslee adjusted the gathering sizes for religious and faith-based organizations on Thursday.

For counties in Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, like Spokane, religious organizations can hold indoor services at a place of worship with 25% building capacity or up to 200 people, whichever is less. The guidelines say that attendees must keep 6 feet of distance between households in these settings, and masks are required.

Previously in Phase 2, religious organizations could only have up to 25% capacity or up to 50 people at a gathering.

“As we move forward through the phases and watch the data, our goal is to loosen restrictions whenever we can if our health experts feel it is possible to make these changes and still protect the public,” Tara Lee, communications director for the governor, said in an emailed statement.

“We also understand how important religious gatherings are and we have been working closely with religious leaders across all faiths for many weeks to try to find a way to accommodate some of their requests.”

There are no changes to the Phase 1 religious gathering guidelines, which do not permit any indoor services.

“Our health experts believe that these are reasonable adjustments to make, especially since, in all cases, masks must be worn and 6-foot distancing between households is required,” Lee said in a statement.

The governor’s office can always increase restrictions if there are negative impacts.

Choirs are still not allowed, and while singing is still allowed, everyone including those leading singing must wear a mask. All attendees and employees of religious organizations must wear masks, too. Communal containers are not allowed, such as a communion cup shared by everyone. Organizations are strongly encouraged to keep a log of those who attend for at least two weeks.

There are more specific guidelines on sanitation, bathroom occupancy and other protocol for places of worship to open indoors.

On Thursday, Spokane County added 17 new COVID-19 cases, now with a total number of people who have tested positive at 893. No additional deaths due to the virus were reported, and there are still a dozen county residents receiving treatment in local hospitals, although this count does not include out-of-county residents or state prisoners who are receiving treatment.

Countywide testing at community health care clinics continues to increase, with at least 100 people tested daily in Spokane County since the start of June, based on data that has been confirmed so far from the Department of Health. On June 9, the county hit its record number of tests recorded so far in the pandemic with 405 tests conducted.

The Spokane Regional Health District announced an additional testing site in Airway Heights, which opens Friday.

The MultiCare Rockwood Clinic located on West U.S. Highway 2 will offer curbside testing Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. People are asked to pull up to the clinic and call the number posted. They will be tested in their vehicles. There are multiple COVID-19 testing sites throughout the county, including a handful of CHAS clinics that offer testing free for people with no health insurance.

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