Houses of worship brace for possible capacity limit as COVID numbers increase

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — How to safely worship during the pandemic is a question religious leaders have continued to tackle since reopening under the NY Forward guidelines following the state’s initial shutdown.

The state is now working backwards as a threat to limit capacity looms. This as record-breaking COVID-positive infections are happening across the state.

Counties in the Capital Region are warning they could reach the metrics for the yellow zone. That will begin rolling back the reopening process. One of the initial changes is limiting capacity for houses of worship to 50 percent.

A COVID-exposure happened this past week at Pastor Charlie Muller’s Victory Church.

“We’ve been trying to comply and be as safe as we can. You know, we have some elderly people in our church,” Muller said. “We’re probably not going to be opening for another couple weeks. Nobody notified us, but we just did that on our own because we’re trying to be as careful as we can,” Muller said.

A micro-cluster roll back strategy has already hit parts of New York State. Counties exceeding a rolling seven-day three-percent positive infection rate will go into the yellow zone.

Pastor Elgin Taylor Sr. at Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church chose not to resume in-person worship after the initial shutdown. Instead, his church has gone virtual.

“It’s not an easy thing to do. Some people don’t always have the resources,” Taylor said.

The senior pastor said Facebook Live, Zoom and conference calls have helped keep the church connected.

“The people are the church. Whether we physically gather together or we’re on zoom calls or whatever, the church is still together,” Taylor said.

With roll backs once again a possibility, Taylor said he doesn’t foresee virtual worship as the future of the church.

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