MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz announced Saturday that places of worship will soon be allowed to reopen at 25% occupancy, as long as they follow social distancing and other health guidelines, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The decision came one day after President Donald Trump declared religious services “essential” and called on governors across the country to reopen them this weekend.
Leaders in both the Catholic and Lutheran churches had announced earlier this week that they planned to defy Gov. Tim Walz’s closure of worship services anyways.
On a call Thursday morning, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said they felt reopening was “actually necessary for overall health of the faith community.” A lawsuit was brought forth to argue that Minnesota churches were being treated unfairly under Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders.
Now, the state will allow churches, mosques, synagogues and other worship centers to reopen as early as Wednesday, May 27.
Walz signed an executive order on Saturday that amends his previous orders — to allow for safe worship, weddings, and funerals.
The order says places of worship, funeral homes, and wedding venues must:
- Ensure six feet of physical distancing between households.
- Remain under 250 people or 25% of normal capacity, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Create a COVID-19 preparedness plan in accordance with the Minnesota Department of Health’s guidelines.
Walz released this statement Saturday:
We know large gatherings of people raise the risk of spreading COVID-19. We also know worship is an essential part of many Minnesotans’ lives, including mine. Minnesotans have made great sacrifices to protect their neighbors by staying home. I understand the toll the pandemic has taken on the spiritual health of Minnesotans. As the CDC allows for places of worship to reopen, I have partnered with faith leaders to ensure there are clear public health guidelines to do so as safely as possible. Each step we take brings risk and responsibility for all. My family will continue to practice our faith via video at home. I urge all Minnesotans to continue to limit their in-person interactions with people outside of their households, and I strongly urge Minnesotans at heightened risk to stay home. Those who disregard public health guidance endanger not only themselves, but their families and their neighbors.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda — the leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis — thanked the state’s leaders for their decision in a three-page letter.
If a parish is not confident they are ready, they should not open. Period. And if the faithful feel safer at home, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days continues to be dispensed. Reflecting the current CDC guidance, we also strongly encourage those who are over the age of 65 or who are especially vulnerable to not attend.