After a week of debate, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has eased restrictions on places of worship.
It was announced Saturday that new rules allow 25 percent of church capacity with a maximum of 250 people.
Social distancing rules will still apply.
“I have had many meaningful conversations with faith leaders over the last few weeks,” Governor Walz said. “From a personal and public health perspective, the decision around places of worship has been a challenging one since the beginning of the pandemic. We know large gatherings of people raise the risk of spreading COVID-19. We also know worship is an essential part of many Minnesotans’ lives, including mine.”
Churches objected to the previous rules, which allowed a maximum of 10 people at worship.
President Donald Trump backed the churches on Friday, calling for them to re-open and pushing back against governors.
“(Friday), I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services," Trump said during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House, where he didn't take questions. He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.
According to the Executive Order, places of worship, funeral homes, and other venues that offer gathering space for weddings, funerals, and planned services such as worship, rituals, prayer meetings, scripture studies, may host such services with over 10 people, provided that they adhere to the below requirements:
- In all settings, ensure a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing between households.
- In indoor settings, occupancy must not exceed 25 percent of the normal occupant capacity as determined by the fire marshal, with a maximum of 250 people in a single self-contained space.
- In outdoor settings, gatherings must not exceed 250 individuals.
- Develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in accordance with guidance developed by the Minnesota Department of Health and available at https://mn.gov/deed/guidance