Health Commissioner orders churches closed due to COVID-19

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): On the heels of the fourth diagnosed case of the coronavirus COVID-19 in Allen County, with more expected to come, the Allen County Health Commissioner is prohibiting church gatherings in Allen County, including those held in non-church venues.

The order came after officials learned some local churches were hoping to still hold small gatherings of ten for bible studies or modified services. The order will last until 11:59pm on April 11th, unless it is extended or canceled.

“While we understand people are still in need of spiritual guidance during these difficult times, we need to be sure everyone grasps the importance of social distancing and avoiding any non-essential gatherings,” said health commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan. “We need the whole community’s cooperation in slowing the spread of COVID-19 to a pace that allows our healthcare systems to provide essential medical care to the expected growing number patients who will contract the virus in addition to all other patients they serve on a regular basis.”

Dr. Deborah McMahan issued a statement regarding the closing of churches on Saturday evening March 21, 2020.

“Pastor Roger Reece of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County just made me
aware of a possible miscommunication on my part. Due to the transmission of the COVID -19 virus in our community and the President and CDC’s guidance recommending people meet in groups of 10 or less, earlier today we ordered churches not to meet if they are unable to meet the less-than-10-person guidance. However, understanding faith is an essential part of most people’s lives especially during crises, we strongly encourage other ways to pastor to your parishioners.  Online, webinars, Facebook or other social media platforms are all wonderful ways to meet the spiritual needs of our community and we encourage those methods. The only thing the order prohibits is having church services with more than 10 attendees present together. We realize the current Governor’s orders restrict these gatherings to no more than 50, but we felt we needed to work toward protecting our community from gatherings larger than 10 at this time.

Please accept my apologies for any confusion and know we are counting on our faith leaders to provide the spiritual support this community will need to endure and get through this crisis. But like healthcare and everything else, it will likely need to be done differently than in normal times. I know it takes folks a bit of time to adjust to new things, but for a pandemic of this magnitude we need to act quickly and collectively if we are to slow the pace of transmission through our community to a level our healthcare systems can keep up with. You are an important part of this plan.
Sincerely,
Deborah A. McMahan, MD
Health Commissioner”

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