Mass. Governor: Many COVID-19 clusters stem from religious services

Mass. Governor: Many COVID-19 clusters stem from religious services

Vivian de Pina, 5, receives a COVID-19 test as her sisters Carla, 6, left, and Kataleya, 4, watch, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. (Credit: Elise Amendola/AP.)

Gov. Charlie Baker is urging those attending services at houses of worship in Massachusetts to adhere to COVID-19 precautions, like wearing masks and practicing social distancing particularly for indoor services.

BOSTON  — Gov. Charlie Baker is urging those attending services at houses of worship in Massachusetts to adhere to COVID-19 precautions, like wearing masks and practicing social distancing particularly for indoor services.

The state is still seeing too many COVID-19 clusters that can be traced back to houses of worship, the Republican said at a Tuesday press conference. Since the start of the pandemic, houses of workshop have experienced a total of 36 clusters, Baker said.

“We know that houses of worship have always served as a place of refuge especially in difficult times like this,” Baker said at a press conference. “But as with all gatherings, protocols have been put in place to ensure that services and other functions that happen in houses of worship happen as safely as possible.”

Baker said many of the state’s faith leaders have stepped up by moving services online or holding them outside if possible.

“It’s critically important that if you do attend an in-person service please do wear a mask,” he said. “Keep your distance.”

Bakers comments come after the Supreme Court last week barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.

Baker said the issue with the New York case was the decision to have one standard for formal gatherings generally and a separate standard for religious institutions.

Massachusetts doesn’t run afoul of the court ruling because the state for the most part is applying the same rules about distancing and capacity to all gathering places, Baker said.

The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts increased by 30 on Tuesday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose by more than 2,800.

The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 10,542 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to nearly 221,200.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 1,190 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 240 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 65.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,797.

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