BAY VILLAGE, Ohio — In the past year, churches have turned to virtual services during the pandemic.
But as more begin to gather at in-person services – health and safety is still top of mind.
Easter services at Saint Raphael Parish in Bay Village are marked with reminders to stay safe.
"We’re seating everyone individually. We’ve got hand sanitizers all throughout. We’re not just encouraging, but also enforcing the wearing of masks," says Father Eric Garris of Saint Raphael Parish.
Ohio’s health order for facial coverings remains in place – including for members of the congregation. Officiants are exempt from wearing masks during religious services. Christ Community Chapel in Hudson had announced earlier this week that masks would be optional, but recently revised their decision, citing confusion over the mandate.
Health experts say it’s important for people to remain cautious and take added steps to protect themselves and those around them.
"We’re in a race right now between the vaccine and the virus. We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations in the greater Cleveland area. And until we achieve high penetration of the vaccine, people still need a mask," says Dr. Keith Armitage, Medical Director at UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health
For Father Eric Garris, taking the extra precautions have made it possible to come together again safely.
"Last year was rough being very alone and distant, but it’s been great to get back together again and to know we can do this in a safe way and people safe coming back and feel safe being here," he adds.
Editor's Note: The below story aired on April 1, 2021