Department of Health encouraging faith communities to follow Governor's guidelines

War Creek Community Church, which is located in the Eidson community of Hawkins County

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – In a press release sent out on May 6, The Northeast Regional Health Office encourages faith communities to follow the “Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship” released May 1 by Governor Bill Lee.

The guidance states decisions about when to resume in-person gatherings are serious and should be made by each house of worship and its leadership based on the unique needs of its faith community, and in consideration of preserving and protecting health and safety to the greatest extent practicable.

“These guidelines provide support for the special role of faith-based organizations in COVID-19 education, preparedness and response,” said Northeast Regional Health Director Rebekah English, RN, MPH.

The “Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship” provides overall guidelines for faith communities to follow such as taking a phased approach to meeting; filling seating to only 50 percent capacity with six feet between family units; wearing face coverings and educating everyone about new protocols. In addition, there are sections within the guidelines for church leaders about creating and maintaining a safe environment and communicating this to members, preparing the house of worship for potential COVID-19 cases, cleaning and sanitizing the facility, logistics of returning to in-person meetings, worship programming and amenities. Faith-based organizations are encouraged to continue providing online access to services.

The “Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship” can be accessed online at a link within the free online version of this article. Links for or guidance for those at higher risk of severe illness, guidance on cleaning and disinfecting facilities, and guidance on wearing face coverings will also be linked to the online version of this article.

TDH also offers COVID-19 testing at no cost to patients throughout the week at our local county health departments. Learn more about TDH drive-through testing and other locations for testing at www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/remote-assessment-sites.html.