Governor Mike Dunleavy is in conversation with pastors and ministers across Alaska to address their concerns about holding religious services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
During his April 3 press conference, he emphasized the need for people to stay six feet away from each other during any gathering, including religious assemblies.
“We are not sanctioning gatherings of individuals for services,” he said, but added that there may be ways for churches to hold services.
“Some folks have asked if there were individual families in their cars in a parking lot and if everyone stayed six feet away from each other – could they have a service along those lines?” he said. “As long as they are six feet away from each other and they stay in their cars, we said that is okay.”
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Earlier in the day, Dunleavy held a conference call with pastors from around the state, asking for their prayers and addressomg ways to ensure that services are conducted in a manner that ensures the safety of participants.
In addition to parking lot services, the governor indicated that churches could also hold outdoor prayer walks so long as participants practice social distancing, wear masks and keep children from playing together.
Holy Week and Easter, which begin this week are some of the most well attended and anticipated events on the religious calendar. For many churches these include services as well as outdoor religious processions.
During the press conference, Dunleavy said the state has received a number of questions from faith leaders and is working on getting responses out as quickly as possible.
“We want to try and minimize the disruption on every Alaskan’s life – every business, every institution, nonprofit, churches – but we also want to maintain that six foot or more, that wiping down the surfaces, and as the doctor advised – if you’re out in public, to wear a mask,” he said. “If we can do that, we are doing what we can do to ensure that the spread of this disease in minimized.”
“Those are the conversations we are having,” he added, “including those of the religious community.”