Governor Kay Ivey’s amendment to her “Safer at Home” order lifted the ban on groups of 10 or more people, effective May 11. As a result of this amendment, churches could once again begin holding in-person services.
In a letter to priests on May 8, Archbishop of Mobile Thomas Rodi announced the resumption of public Masses May 12.
“At the same time, we must remain aware that the coronavirus is a very real and present danger,” Rodi said in the letter. “Our people continue to get sick and to die from this scourge. We cannot be complacent in our efforts to foster the safety of neighbors.”
The letter provided guidelines that had to be followed by any church within the Archdiocese of Mobile to have public Masses. These guidelines included the use of every other pew and a six-foot social distancing requirement between families on the pews.
Worship aids like hymnals were not to be used unless they were single use. No shared surfaces like kneelers or altar rails could be used during the distribution of Holy Communion, during which the priest must wear a mask. Pews and other surfaces must be disinfected between services.
“These regulations may not seem normal for us, and they aren’t,” Rodi said in another letter dated May 10. “However, these are not normal times. These regulations must be adhered to since the coronavirus remains among us.”
Some churches have decided to wait longer to resume in-person services. Sara Sills, senior pastor at Cornerstone Metropolitan Community Church (CMCC), said CMCC has set a target date of June 7 to resume its physical services.
“We believe it is incumbent upon us to act in ways that offer the safest possible conditions for our congregation,” Sills told Lagniappe.
She said her congregation is more vulnerable than the general population, as there are a number of immunocompromised members. CMCC’s population also skews over the age of 60.
CMCC is planning to adjust seating within its sanctuary to maintain six feet between rows, and there will be trained volunteers scanning individuals for elevated temperatures prior to admitting them, Sills said. Those with high temperatures will not be allowed to enter.
She said CMCC has enough masks to provide one for every attendee. Hand-sanitizing stations will be present throughout the building, and common surfaces will be disinfected between worship gatherings.
“Should the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendation of a 14-day decline in new cases not be met in Mobile County, we are prepared to postpone the reopening date until that goal is attained,” Sills said.
Communion will be a pre-packaged wafer and juice.
Other services have begun to reopen as well. Deborah Eddie, the child development center director at Government Street Baptist Church, said in a May 8 letter to families the child development center is reopening in phases, starting May 18 for children of first responders and medical personnel only. On June 1, the center plans to be completely open.
“All of these plans are subject to change as we make assessments each week,” Eddie said in the letter. “It is my hope and prayer that all goes well and everyone will be back by June 1.”
Weinacker’s Montessori School reopened its locations May 1. On its website, a coronavirus plan was released that described how practices would change to adapt to the pandemic. Among these changes was a required temperature check of all staff and children before entering the building. Individuals with a temperature above 100 degrees would not be allowed to enter until 72 hours after being fever-free.
Staff are required to wear face coverings while in the building. Parents and other adults authorized to pick children up are asked to notify the school of travel plans, which will be compared with COVID-19 hotspots.
The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center will resume its summer camps June 1 — a week later than originally planned — and will admit the general public starting June 2 with a reduced number of hours.
Josh Holland, the Exploreum’s director of marketing and design, said children participating in the summer camps will have their temperature checked upon entry every day. He said there will be only half as many children able to participate this year to ensure better social distancing.
“For the campers, it’s going to be pretty much run-of-the-mill,” Holland said. “It’ll just be less kids in the camp and more sanitation measures.”
He said some families have already booked their children into every week the Exploreum is offering a summer camp.
“Summer camps are such a huge deal for us and so many families almost depend on that, especially ones that are going back to work now,” Holland said. “They need something for their kids to do during the day and they would rather bring them here because they are learning and having fun.”
He said the Exploreum is familiar with extensive sanitization measures.
“We go above and beyond cleaning standards here as it is, because we have so many groups come through when something like this isn’t going on,” Holland said. “We may have 200 to 300 kids come through the building in different groups throughout the day so we are constantly cleaning non-stop.”
The Mobile Museum of Art summer camp, Art Blast, was cancelled, though the museum will be offering a new program called MMofA Art Kits for ages 4-7 and ages 8-11 that will be available every week via curbside pickup. Each kit will contain the materials to create an art project based on a piece of artwork in the museum’s permanent collection.
Kim Wood, curator of youth education at the MMofA, said the museum has not decided on when the program will begin, but a date will be posted on the museum’s website when one has been chosen.
“We want to continue to offer art lessons and art education to the children,” Wood said. “We just didn’t feel comfortable in an enclosed classroom with the younger ones.”
For children who are 12 and older as well as adults, the museum plans to offer small, onsite classes with themes including pottery, sculpting, printmaking and painting.
“They won’t be all over each other like the little ones might,” Wood said.
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