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Options offered for church services and gatherings

Religious organizations and places of worship have inquired about opportunities to continue offering faith-based services and gatherings, while still complying with Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order.

Evers and Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) secretary-designee Andrea Palm issued a Safer at Home order, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, effective March 25. The order remains in effect until April 24, or until a superseding order is issued.

All Wisconsinites must stay at home as much as possible, and non-essential businesses and operations must cease, with limited exceptions for minimum basic operations and working from home. All public and private gatherings of any number of people, who are not part of a single household or living unit, are prohibited, except for limited exceptions contained in the order.

Under the governor’s order, churches and religious entities are considered essential. Any gathering must include fewer than 10 people at a time, if it occurs in a room or confined space.

Thus, churches and religious entities wishing to conduct services, while still complying with the governor’s order, may, for example, conduct services via parking lots with congregants staying in cars, avoiding person-to-person contact; streaming online; and having small gatherings (fewer than 10 people in each room) with multiple services.

Churches and religious entities are encouraged to review and comply with all DHS guidelines, including those for community and faith based organizations.

The governor’s Safer at Home order is enforceable by any local law enforcement official, including county sheriffs; however, the governor’s office has not asked law enforcement to supervise or take enforcement steps against religious gatherings.

The DHS continues to ask local law enforcement to assist local communities and congregations understand the governor’s Safer at Home order, and help people take precautions to keep themselves, neighbors and communities safe.