Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Pritzker urges Illinois churches to submit reopening plans

By Jim Hagerty

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged faith groups across the state to submit plans for reopening to his office.

And the more comprehensive, the better.

The governor said it has been a challenge during the pandemic to phase churches back to in-person worship and other gatherings, which is why he put a stamp of approval on the Catholic Church’s detailed plan.

“Every church is different–and mosque and synagogue,” Pritzker said during his Thursday press briefing. “So, we’ve been trying to provide guidance where we’ve been asked. The Archdiocese of Chicago did a terrific job with their plan. (It) was very detailed–webinars and lots of details.”

While the Catholic plan, which includes the Diocese of Rockford, has many steps and phases of its own, its first phase follows capacity rules specified in Phase 3 of the governor’s “Restore Illinois” roadmap. In that phase, the church caps baptisms, weddings, funerals and other meetings at 10 people and no parish will host daily or Sunday in-person mass.

Phase 2 falls in line with Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, one that increases in-person gatherings to 50. Parishes must be approved to move into the second phase. And each must meet certain criteria such as maintaining ongoing procurement of safety and cleaning supplies and developing logistical procedures to increase capacity.

The Archdiocese will also require volunteers who help facilitate reopening to complete webinar training.

“I hope other churches will take that lead from the Archdiocese,” the governor said.

All Illinois faith groups are currently permitted to hold parking lot or “drive-through” services. There are no capacity restrictions on those gatherings as long as attendees remain in their vehicles.

As of Thursday, the state is reporting a total of 102,686 cases of COVID-19, including 4,607 deaths, in 100 counties. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have processed 29,307 tests, 2,268 of which were positive. Statewide, there have been 672,020 tests administered since the beginning of the pandemic.

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