CNA Staff, Apr 9, 2020 / 11:30 am (CNA).- The state of Kansas is limiting religious services to no more than ten people for Easter as part of measures to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued an executive order on Tuesday requiring religious institutions to abide by the state’s current prohibition on public gatherings or 10 or more people during the public health emergency.
“As Holy Week gets underway – and with Kansas rapidly approaching its projected ‘peak’ infection rate in the coming weeks – the risk for a spike in COVID-19 cases through church gatherings is especially dangerous,” Kelly said April 7.
The governor’s previous executive order on mass gatherings exempted religious institutions, although it encouraged churches to broadcast their services online and over the radio “wherever possible” in order to not have “in-person” gatherings.
Now, religious gatherings are still allowed as “essential services” but are limited to 10 people at a time where participants must maintain “social distancing” and proper hygiene.
The spread of the virus necessitated the requirement to curtail mass religious gatherings during Holy Week, Kelly said on Tuesday.
There have been 1,046 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kansas with 38 deaths, as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the state’s health department. Nationwide, there have been more than 395,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 12,754 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
All public Masses in Kansas have already been suspended during the COVID-19 crisis. The Archdiocese of Kansas City, along with the dioceses of Wichita, Salina, and Dodge City, will be livestreaming Masses and liturgies during the Easter Triduum.
Private family gatherings are not subject to the updated order’s prohibitions, and neither are establishments such as “shopping malls and other retail establishments where large numbers of people are present but are generally not within arm’s length of one another for more than 10 minutes.”
Libraries are also allowed to remain open, as are restaurants and bars with spaces of six feet or more between tables, booths, bar stools and ordering counters.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City wrote in an April 3 column that “Christian charity also requires that we exercise prudence. We need to observe Governor Kelly’s executive order.”
Kelly had issued a March 26 “stay home” order allowing residents to leave their homes only to get food and medicine, for work, medical care, care of family members or pets, or outdoor exercise, or other “essential” activities.
Naumann wrote that Catholics have an “obligation in charity” to help prevent the spread of the virus through “remaining at home except for essential tasks, social distancing, washing our hands, not gathering in large groups, etc.”
He praised the governor’s recognition of a constitutional right for religious services to still proceed, saying that some counties and municipalities had tried to ban religious activities outright including weddings and funerals.
“Government cannot permit liquor stores, pet stores and dry cleaners to continue to operate and not allow religious activities,” he wrote.
“At the same time, for the good of the public health of our communities, our churches are rightly obligated to observe the same limitations — e.g., the number of people who can assemble or the social distancing that is required of other organizations and enterprises.”
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