HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- A Hillsborough County Commissioner is urging the Governor to repeal the religious services exemption.
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Governor DeSantis' stay-at-home order calls religious services essential, but right now, county leaders are not aware of any services that will be taking place inside a house of worship.
County Commissioner Pat Kemp sent a letter to Governor DeSantis late Thursday asking the state to modify its order using specific language to make it clear places of worship should not hold large gatherings.
She said, "This is a perilous action and will likely lead to deaths and hospitalizations."
Commissioner Kemp points out the spread of COVID-19 linked to religious gatherings in Kentucky, California, Georgia, and France, where there have been dozens of cases and several deaths. This is also happening in New Jersey.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said to protect congregants, they should still follow CDC guidelines -- no gatherings of more than 10 people and to keep family groups 6 feet apart.
"A lot of these congregations are those individuals that are in the high risk categories, the elderly and individuals that have other health concerns. So again stay at home whenever possible," Castor said.
Right now the county is hoping people will listen to the stay-at-home order, but it will be something to watch over the next couple of weeks as we approach holidays like passover and Easter.
Here are guidelines to follow recommended by the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group:
- Houses of worship and religious services are essential to the fabric of every community in Hillsborough County. To promote the safety and well-being of all people, public health experts recommend that all large gatherings, including religious services, be conducted online or through other communication technology whenever possible until the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus has passed.
- Those who choose to attend religious services in-person should follow the public health and safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. This includes providing at least 6 feet of space between attendees and avoiding gathering in groups larger than 10 people. By remaining at home whenever possible, and following the CDC guidelines, you can help stop the spread of the virus among your congregation, your friends, and your neighbors.
- Leave your home only when absolutely necessary, limit gatherings to 10 people, and provide 6 feet of space between individuals.