Chaffee County Public Health is strongly recommending that places of worship use online programming rather than in-person services this holiday season.

“Virtual worship is strongly recommended because according to Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment, ‘The safest option to protect the most people and prevent the spread of the virus is to offer services online during this phase of the pandemic,’” reads guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

Faith-based services are considered critical at all risk levels, which means “they must do their best to follow public health recommendations but may make exceptions if they cannot conduct their essential activity within those restrictions. While not a requirement, houses of worship can reference the indoor and outdoor events guidance to see what public health officials are recommending as safe gathering levels, when precautions are taken.”

That recommendation is that “places of worship in counties with high rates of COVID-19 transmission substitute in-person service with online programming and prioritize outdoor activities over indoor.”

Places of worship must comply with the required guidelines unless doing so would make it impossible to carry out essential activities.

Those required guidelines include parties remaining 6 feet apart, considering shortening the duration of services to minimize exposure time, wearing a mask when entering or moving within any public indoor space.

Performances with vocal speech or singing, or activities that cause heavy breathing must be 25 feet from the audience. Six feet of distance is required, but 25 feet is preferred, for performances that do not require forced exhalation.

Public Health also recommends using a pre-registration system, social media platform or private messaging to distribute the number of worshippers across the services being offered, and all employees and volunteers should have their temperature taken and be screened for symptoms.

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