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As coronavirus cases rise, places of worship adjust to keep members safe

The spike has been partially linked to church services.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The rising number of coronavirus cases nationwide has been partly linked to religious services.

In Northeast Ohio, religious groups are working to make sure they keep worshipers safe.

"Our churches look very different than they did before," Father Dan Schlegel of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland said. "Thanks be go God, at the present time we know of no outbreak of the disease in any of our Catholic churches. We have not had any issues thus far."

Most parishes within the diocese have transitioned from virtual only to a mix of virtual and in-person Mass. Schlegel says capacity at most churches is below 30 percent.

Leaders are asking parishioners to wear masks. Sanitizing stations are set up at entrances, pews are roped off, and there are markings for social distancing. It is also recommended parishioners receive communion in hand, instead of on the tongue.

While some places of worship have resumed services indoors, University Hospitals' Dr. Keith Armitage has reservations.

"It pains me to say that church, indoor church services where people are close together, is another place where we see lots of spread," he told 3News.

There are churches opting for outdoor services in parking lots, and First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland is sticking strictly to virtual services with only a few key people inside the building.

"We really do want to come back," Senior Pastor Kregg Burris, who describes the church as a community of faith, said. "The last thing we’d want is to be able to spread or share an infectious disease."

According to Cuyahoga County Public Health spokesman Kevin Brennan, through contact tracing they’ve found that "gatherings at churches, whether they were funerals, weddings, or something else, have caused spread...This does reinforce the urgency to abide by mass gathering limit set by the state and to wear a mask anytime you interact with anyone outside of your immediate family or household."

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