Mayor Turner announces new guidelines for Houston churches to reopen

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As churches reopen their doors to members, the city of Houston released a set of guidelines to help make it safe for service.

On Friday, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston health leaders and religious leaders from across the city introduced guidelines for churches to reopen.

A task force has worked on the guidelines for months, Turner said.
"These are guidelines," Turner explained. "They're not mandates."

Some of the guidelines include, limiting capacity to 25%, placing signage from the parking lot to the entrance and asking everyone to wear a mask.

"Jesus Christ was Middle Eastern who wore a scarf most of the day because of the dust, the infection and the smell of dung that was going around," Rev. Rodrigo Vargas explained. "So, they would wear a mask. This is not about a lack of faith, but rather the opposite."

Faith leaders said they developed guidelines with elderly members in mind. They hope if churches follow the guidelines it'll still allow at-risk members to attend.

"How to make worship still an act of faith, but a comfortable, safe experience," Dr. Irishea Hilliard of New Light Church explained. "We shouldn't have to risk our lives to lift up our faith in our God that we serve."

Even at 25% capacity, some churches will still have thousands in attendance. Lakewood Church will welcome guests back this Sunday.

Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Authority said don't get worried about the number.

"It's really about the density of how many people and how close are people," Persse explained.

He said if social distancing is practiced, masks are worn and good hygiene is practiced, the guidelines will keep people safe.

As far as singing, the guidelines recommend churches limit the activity or encourage members to wear masks.

"If you pull it down a little bit, that's a completely different story," Persse explained. "It really needs to stay up over the nose and the mouth, and if you're singing, you should be fine."

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