calendar July 20, 2020 in Public Health

Clarification on Gathering Size Limits

Gov. Wolf’s latest order restricting gatherings to 25 persons indoors and 250 persons outdoors do not apply to religious institutions. Asked specifically about this at a July 15 news conference, Secretary Levine and the governor both responded “no.” (See this recording at 48:45)
While the restrictions are not mandatory for congregations, churches are still encouraged to take precautions such as masking and social distancing.
The governor’s mitigation order is targeted at bars, restaurants, and other places where people gather in crowds. Churches are excluded for first amendment reasons, yet we operate in the same climate of increasing community spread of the virus. Scientific research indicates caution, as churches have been the scene of a number of super spreader events. Singing, communal eating, and communion are also considered risky.
Bishop Davenport has encouraged congregations to make the safety of worshippers, church staff and clergy, and the community a priority in making decisions to return to in-person worship. Congregations are advised to take community case trends into account when planning for indoor or outdoor activities.
You will also want to take into account local guidelines. In Philadelphia, for example, officials urge churches not to meet in-person. Philadelphia’s “Reopening With Care” webpage indicates that a date has not been set for the resumption of religious gatherings with more than 25 persons within the city. The guidance also prohibits group singing.