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Church leaders outline plan for holding services again in Chicago

The plan includes: handing out hand sanitizer, gloves and masks; following social distancing guidelines; and temperature checks before each service.

Pastor Floyd James with Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church said 10 people will allowed in his church as he holds a virtual service on Sunday.
Pastor Floyd James with Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church displays a touchless thermometer his church plans to use, along with portable thermal detectors, when churches are allowed to re-open.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Several faith leaders laid out a vision for how churches should re-open as the state continues to tend to a public health crisis that has claimed over 4,000 lives in less than three months.

The faith leaders say they have no intention of defying state-issued orders like other churches in the city have recently done. Instead, they are relying on “science, doctors and the government” to let them know when it is safe for them to reopen.

Still, they said in a press conference shown live on Facebook, the church is more important than ever as COVID-19 has forced many people into isolation.

“People need to have some hope in the midst of all of the things that they’re hearing,” said Rev. Floyd James of Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church. “This is our calling. We were called into the work to be concerned for the least, the less and the lost.”

Rev. Robin Hood of Redeemed Outreach Ministries said “church is the household of God” but in areas where COVID-19 is spreading the “church has to be smart and safe” in protecting its congregation.

It’s unclear if every storefront church in the city would be capable of carrying out the plans, which include giving every congregant hand sanitizer, gloves and a mask upon entering the church.

Hood said they would also run two temperature tests at the door, using two different devices.

A hands-free thermal detector would be placed on the wall or on a tripod at the doors of churches; the device’s sensor can take a person’s temperature from about 2 inches away from their forehead.

Pastor Robin Hood takes his temperature by pointing his forehead toward the sensor on a thermal detector during a press conference Monday at Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church.
Pastor Robin Hood takes his temperature by pointing his forehead toward the sensor on a thermal detector during a press conference Monday at Greater Rock Missionary Baptist Church.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A person who shows a fever would be sent into isolation in the church where they would be tested for the novel coronavirus but it’s unclear how churches would obtain, conduct and examine the tests.

Those without a fever will be allowed into the sanctuary.

Temperature checks, however, don’t filter out asymptomatic people who can still transmit the virus to others.

Tyrone Muhammad is director of product placement of Yates Enterprise, which provided a device for a demonstration at Monday’s press conference. He said their device is crucial to keeping people safe, but isn’t sure if every church can afford the $3,500 device.

“This machine is hypercritical for monitoring the coming and goings of people that have temperatures,” Muhammad said.

Social distancing will limit attendance, so church leaders will probably host multiple services throughout the day if needed.