Churches have the option to remain open in Clay County and leaders there say that they are delegating those decisions to individual places of worship on how they choose to proceed as Easter Sunday draws closer.
In Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statewide safer-at-home mandate that went into effect last Friday, he said that churches were essential and could be kept open. Numerous churches in the area had gone to online services during the pandemic, but the mandate did afford churches the option to open their doors, provided they follow proper safety precautions.
Clay County manager Howard Wanamaker said he’s heard of area churches getting creative with their services and have reminded them what the suggested parameters are about crowds and social distancing.
“So, we’ve really kind of left it up to each leadership of each church that’s out there, but to follow and highly encourage them to follow the CDC guidelines for 10 and under for the capacity, their churches, hospital trips,” Wanamaker said on Monday.
“I do know that there are many churches out there that are conducting services in parking lots. Parishioners are remaining within their vehicles there, I think, no longer about 45 minutes to an hour so that no one needs to use to facilities or get out of their car, and then they can return home. That is a viable option to take for those coming up for Sunday.”
Among other topics covered during Monday’s meeting:
• The county has issued 1,097 tests for COVID-19 and has 1,014 negative results.
• The emergence of rapid testing to detect COVID-19 is not something that the county is looking into at this point, said Heather Huffman, the Florida Department of Health in Clay County administrator.
“We’re still continuing to use those PCR [polymerase chain reaction ]tests. Those are consistent and the most accurate, useful tests to drive public health and clinical action. So, at this point, the Department of Health is not currently using any rapid test and testing for antibodies,” Huffman said. “There’s a little bit of hesitancy with those and some concern. So, we want to move forward and continue to use the most reliable for our clinical decisions.”