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Governor to give OK for houses of worship to re-open, but not at full capacity and with social distancing and facial coverings

The Massachusetts Municipal Association has gotten a copy of at least some of Gov. Baker's planned orders for easing pandemic restrictions, which he will announce tomorrow at his daily press conference.

Among the changes: Houses of worship will have to reduce their maximum capacity to no more than 40% of the number listed on their certificate of occupancy - and ensure non-related groups of people stay at least six feet apart from other groups.

Also, everybody without a medical reason to do so will have to wear a mask or facial covering - and houses of worship can bar people who refuse to comply. And childcare during services is forbidden.

The new regulations also come with suggestions:

If feasible, places of worship are encouraged to arrange online sign-up for services in advance in order to monitor and limit the
number of attendees.

Places of worship are encouraged to place tape or other visual distancing markings on seating to delineate 6 foot separations and to
post signage indicating the maximum number of persons permitted per row.

Promote ventilation for enclosed spaces where possible. For example, consider opening windows and doors to allow airflow.

  • Places of worship are encouraged to take steps to encourage orderly entering and exiting of services in a manner that encourages
  • social distancing. For example:
  • Signage or floor markings should be posted to have one-way aisles or otherwise direct attendees to follow certain pathways for
  • entering and exiting the service.
  • If a line forms outside of the service, those waiting should be directed to maintain social distancing. Tape or other markings on the
  • ground outside of places of worship should be placed to encourage attendees to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Staff should direct people in high traffic areas to help maintain social distancing.

Religious organizations are also urged to cut out pre- and post-service food and to develop no-touch ways to collect donations - preferably by encouraging members to give by mail or online.

Places of worship are encouraged to modify communal rituals, like taking communion or passing of the peace, so as to limit contact
with others. Consider distributing, where applicable, prepackaged communion or sacraments.

Via Boston Jewish Community Relations Council.

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Comments

Ah, the entertaining generalities and inventiveness of draft government guidance for non-government functions. "Pre-packaged sacraments"?

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Voting closed 13

Uh...prepackaged host and wine are common outside of catholic services. Maybe you need to get out more?

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Voting closed 17

Now in the convenient to-go pack!

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Voting closed 16

Doing a slight amount of online searching, pre-packaged sacraments are absolutely a thing. They're a thing that until recently were often reported in the news as a weird novelty, but well, the respective churches can make their decision about whether that's an option God would be cool with.

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Voting closed 12

More seriously, it sounds pretty good, with features some of us predicted and avoids some of the pitfalls we feared.
It goes by a reduction of usual rated occupancy, instead of some sort of one-size-fits-all nonsense like the five-stage system in Illinois, which has flat numbers whether the church is a tiny chapel that can only hold 3 or 4 dozen or a massive nave that can hold a thousand or two.
It specifies spacing out attendees who don't arrive together.
It mentions the possibility of using reservations or tickets or something to reduce the prospect of overcrowding and having to turn people away.
The most noticeable thing the leak doesn't mention is requirements about cleaning between services. Edit: Ooops, yes it does!

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Voting closed 12

That's not possible in any church I've been in. 6' is two pews in front, two pews behind.

Even with families of four, you're talking 25% capacity, tops.

With just unrelated little old ladies, capacity is 11%: one person, then room for two people on the right. And the two pews behind empty. Repeat. 1/9 capacity.

This is nuts.

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Voting closed 24

its almost as if limiting the amount of people in the building is the plan

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Voting closed 36

Why do they hate God?

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Voting closed 5

Anon.... your geometry skills and your math skills are so-so, but your language is what bothers me. "Little old ladies?" Please take a look at your sexism and ageism.

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Voting closed 20

Is it possible that maybe these churches were too tightly packed anyway then?

My local church tore out half the pews 20 years ago because they had a capacity that was just outrageous but it was not comfortable at all. The new set up had the pews at a slant and left open spaces for folding chairs and handicap access. I imagine this set up would prove to be useful at this time as they may be able to stagger seating in such a way that does not cut out any rows since they are not tightly packed. You create six foot blocks in each row and number them with even and odd numbers. In row one you just seat the evens, in row two you seat the odds.

Lets be honest, outside of Easter this is what these churches look like anyway.

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Voting closed 5

The Charlie Baker Comedy show continues to be must watch TV. How he can deliver his lines without breaking into tears or laughter is beyond me. Today he is going to issue these foolish restrictions on Houses of Worship. Meanwhile on the MBTA which he runs is a petri dish of germs that has become a mobile homeless shelter. They can't even figure out a rule on masks. The Governor issues an order mandating the wearing of masks or you can't ride and the General Manager says you can ride without a mask. I rode a bus in Southie the other day and the destination display clearly read 'MASKS REQUIRED'. I was the only passenger wearing a mask. I felt bad for the driver but who was he going to call the Transit Police. There ranks have been wiped out with half of them in quarantine and several testing positive.

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Voting closed 10

Help me out here: are you one of those religious people who believe that the laws of nature don't apply to you because some authority figure in your religion told you that your god said so?

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Voting closed 15

You know, I don't care much for baker. But cut the guy some slack.

Have you been thru a pandemic where your federal gov't has failed you?

Nah.

So neither has fucking Charlie Baker. Give the guy a little bit of slack.

The mask issue is UNIVERSAL and isnt specific to Baker or Massachusetts. Its Everywhere. People are just being morons with the masks. I see so many faux paus. All I can say and think is "we're all gonna die due to these morons".

You just need to worry about YOURSELF and not others.

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Voting closed 35

Crybaby Baker wasn't failed by the feds. The feds weren't responsible for the non-existent MEMA stockpile or the wholesale slaughter of the elderly in nursing homes Baker decided were a great place to send infected people to.

Charlie is playing the blame game and the only person to blame is himself. We are a medical mecca compared to the rest of the company and he has a hospital background. Massachusetts should have been the best prepared state in the union and instead we are knee deep in dead grandmas with an incompetent Governor crying at a podium that it's the feds fault he failed.

It took him how many months to decide that maybe masks were a good thing? It's not like he could have asked the highest number of per capita doctors in the country the question or anything.

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Voting closed 2

I'm not cutting Baker any slack. The number of cases of covid19 and the deaths are higher in Massachusetts than should be indicated for our population.

He wants us to know he has experience in the health care industry (Harvard Pilgrim) but that experience focused on cost cutting and high executive salaries, not providing good healthcare or saving lives.

He was late to take action in the way of shutdowns. (See Northern California, for example)

His actions, when finally taken, defined construction, painting, and landscaping as essential industries (unlike other states, and unlike some cities like Boston), so leaving more people at risk. He permitted liquor stores to stay open, but closed pot stores, because he just doesn't like pot stores. He decided that the T would be cleaned only every 72 hours , and reports indicated even that wasn't being done.

His buddies in the nursing home industry (he said himself at one of his press conferences that he has a lot of friends that own nursing homes) were ill prepared for a pandemic, and have been running their businesses to maximize profits and minimize elder care for a long time. It's not surprising that nursing homes are a problem in this pandemic.

His re-opening task force consists of corporate execs, and excludes organized labor, and other labor, specifically nurses, retail workers, and other front line workers.

As for the guidelines for re-opening churches, they're filled with a lot of suggestions, not directions or edicts or enforcement. It keeps using the words "should" and "encouraged". So the end result is that the churches will do whatever they want, thus endangering lives

Baker's press conferences are a disaster. He refuses to repeat or restate reporter's questions so those of us watching or listening at home don't know what his answers refer to.
He gets very defensive and arrogant in the face of even mild criticism.

I think Baker has done a better job than some of the extremist right wing crazy governors in other states, but still not a good job.

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Voting closed 2

“I felt bad for the driver but who was he going to call the Transit Police“

That would be who to call, the driver probably felt safe being taped off from contact more that 6 feet away and downdraft. But for the safety of passengers, those idiots should have been made to disembark.

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Voting closed 6

Opening churches is a great way to spread the virus without boosting the economy at all. So many super spreader events around the world were religious events. Plus the average church goer is 100 years old and religious people aren’t exactly known for their rationality. This will spread the virus around Massachusetts. Whether you pray at home or in a big building the result is still the same...

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Voting closed 60

It’s the future.

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Voting closed 7

the average church goer is 100 years old

. Again from Kinopio with the absolutism. And not surprisingly completely false.

There's actually a lot of data on the subject. Pew Research for example.

https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/age-distribution/

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Voting closed 2

Contrary to most of the misinformation the virus is mostly [excepting essentially kissing distances] spread by people sharing clouds of warm moist virus laden air

As in I breathe out air with virus -- you breathe in air with virus -- fairly simple really

Now the key is what happens to my air after my exhalation -- assuming I'm not moving much -- it forms a small cloud generally in front and somewhat surrounding my head [assuming that I'm not exerting myself heavily].

The rest of what happens depends on the buoyancy or lack there-of -- of the cloud -- think a small hot air balloon

Unless the surrounding air temperature is in the high nineties -- the "virus balloon" will rise while very slowly expanding. Humid air being less dense than dry air -- the virus balloon will lift at a slower rate on a day with warm temperatures and high dew point than on a cold dry day.

All the above is for still air -- add in some relatively aggressive ventilation and the virus balloons will be disrupted and mixed with un-contaminated air

Now the physics stops -- and we need to know something from the biologists relative to the concentration of virus in the air which is likely to be able to infect someone.

Finally, we have the results of the USAMRID lab study of the "half life" of the SARS-COV-2 virus in the air and on surfaces. We now know that for still air with sort of typical winter indoors conditions of dry and typical room temperature -- there will be active virus for many minutes [up to an hour]. Of course that virus infected air will be up near the ceiling.

William N. Bryan, the acting undersecretary for science and technology at the Homeland Security Department. The experiments, conducted at the U.S. Army's biosecurity laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland, tested how long the virus would persist on hard, nonporous surfaces and as droplets in the air when exposed to various levels of heat, humidity, and sunlight.

The half-life of the virus in droplets ranged from about 60 minutes to 1.5 minutes. Basically, the hotter, the steamier, and the sunnier, the more quickly the virus was destroyed.

Now the study reported upon by Asst. Sec. Bryan was done in conditions characteristic of indoor winter-type air [70-75 deg F with 20% relative humidity].

The indoor solution is better ventilation and circulation combined with UV irradiation of the airborne virons and micron or less scale droplets

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Voting closed 3

The economy IS the church for much of the nation.
How the rites of worship change to ensure more safe expression of belief needs to be addressed. Churches of other religions also need to adopt new protocols IF they want to protect their members. Maybe God (-s, or the absence thereof) offers protection?

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Voting closed 1

It's 2020 and because of organized religion the majority of the population has to be put at risk. As far as close human contact; Churches, Mosques, and Synagogues are arguably more risky than your average business.

These tax free houses of worship should be held liable if and when their holy petri dishes overflow with the 'rona.

This is completely asinine and makes us a look as bad, if not worse, than the politicians of the Mississippi Delta.

All roads lead to God for chrissakes, just PRAY AT HOME!

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Voting closed 2

I get the political realities, particularly after four decades of accelerated privileging of religion in a secular society...but this is caving in to a powerful and increasingly volatile interest rather than a reasoned decision to allow a low-risk activity.

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Voting closed 36

I think the issue right now is that if you're a religious person, you probably think that houses of worship are "essential" whereas if you're not, you don't. It seems silly to me to gather with other people for any reason when it's really not at all necessary. You don't have to be in a group with others in order to practice religion.

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Voting closed 17

I am starting a church which worships Poseidon. We will meet under the full moon at Point Allerton and swim out to Boston light and back. If you are called to the inky black depths by Poseidon (or a shark or a freighter), so be it. If you make it back to shore, you will feel so alive, so rejuvenated by the outing that your spirit will be lifted.

See you all June 5th!

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Voting closed 10

There's been such a church in the small Massachusetts town of Innsmouth since 1840. I'd recommend taking a trip down there this summer and staying in their lovely inn. Don't bother locking your door at night.

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Voting closed 7

I'm proposing to disrupt the stranglehold the Old Ones have on our worship of the elements in this state.

I'll put you down as maybe.

Edit: I've pivoting and instead of pitching this a 'disruption', it's now going to be a relaunch of a classic brand like bringing back Hydrox or something. Poseidon was good enough for Alexander the Great, surely he's good enough for you rubes.

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Voting closed 11

Hydrox were better than Oreos.

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Voting closed 3

This is a terrible decision. Congregating indoors, especially with a population that skews elderly is the LAST possible activity that should be allowed.

Has Baker ever seen a storefront church? You couldn't fit 10 people in there and be appropriately socially distanced. And very little ventilation. And these are places people spend hours together SINGING. He's just given the green light for the virus to spread and people will inevitable be sickened and die.

And even if his "rules" would allow people to be safe it's the signaling of safety and the places that don't have the potential to follow the rules that will cause the suffering.

This may be the worst decision he's ever made and he's given himself plenty of competition in the "how not to do it" category.

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Voting closed 1

Liturgy in the Church, worshiping and adoring God in communion, is a crucial part of Christian life (a fact that seems to be lost on some commenters!) There are some important safety recommendations here, but very grateful to have the chance to to return to the most important things, even in a somewhat attenuated way.

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Voting closed 2

Singing is a great way to spread the virus - deep inhaling and forceful exhaling.

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Voting closed 1