Chicago-area churches hold services, say they’re taking precautions

By Sophia Tareen
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois churches holding services Sunday despite warnings about health risks during the coronavirus pandemic said they’re taking precautions to protect congregants, from scrapping communion to requiring masks. 

While President Donald Trump’s Friday order declaring houses of worship essential prompted some to expand, others said it was simply time to reopen as more people suffer in the pandemic. 

“It’s like a physician knowing that someone is bleeding and they can’t do anything about it,” said Pastor John Elleson of Lakewood Chapel in suburban Arlington Heights. 

The church reopened its sanctuary Sunday, something that was planned for weeks. Roughly 20 worshippers, including staff, wore masks and stood spaced out. Doors were kept open and communion wasn’t offered, said Elleson, who wore a glove while he prayed for congregants, touching them on the shoulder or side. 

Clashes between churches and local stay-at-home orders have popped up nationwide. In Chicago, three churches  been holding services for weeks were fined $500. In Illinois, houses of worship are limited to 10 people to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Some churches said they’d try to expand after Trump’s declaration. 

Pervis Thomas, pastor of New Canaan Land Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side, urged leaders to lift restrictions and said he was planning for about 50 people. He said there wouldn’t be any singing as a precaution. 

“We just want her to recognize our institution as being essential,” Thomas told  the Chicago Tribune. 

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older people and the infirm, it can cause severe symptoms and lead to death.

Public health officials announced 2,508 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday and 67 additional deaths. Overall, 110,304 people in the state have tested positive and 4,856.

Also Sunday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker released detailed reopening guidelines  for different businesses, including salons, restaurants and offices, which could soon open their doors. The Democrat’s gradual reopening plan is tied to meeting public health metrics, with the next phase possible before the end of the month. 

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