Churches in LA County exercise caution during in-person services

Saint+John+of+God+church+in+Norwalk+held+an+indoor+service+on+Feb.+17%2C+2021.+The+audience+is+required+to+social+distance+and+wear+a+mask.+Photo+credit%3A+Vincent+Medina

Saint John of God church in Norwalk held an indoor service on Feb. 17, 2021. The audience is required to social distance and wear a mask. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Vincent Medina

Churches in LA County are trying to keep their congregation safe during in-person services after the ban was lifted by the Supreme Court on Feb. 5.

Despite evidence from the World Health Organization and the CDC that COVID-19 is more contagious in closed spaces, churches have decided to take advantage of the ruling to hold services indoors.

The Saint John of God Church in Norwalk continues to hold indoor services at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

“Those who attend the morning mass Monday through Saturday are no more than 150 people. That’s not even at 25% capacity. If we have more than 125 people, we will move outside,” said Pastor Raymond Decipeda.

He has modified Saint John of God to try and keep his congregation safe. Every other pew is closed off, hand sanitizers are placed along the aisles and seats are marked for people to maintain a safe distance.

“When people come in, they use the sanitizing spray and rags to clean their seat. When they leave, they spray and clean it again,” the pastor said.

Decipeda argues that indoor services are safe.

“Do the science,” he said. “How many churches have had an outbreak?”

The Grace Community Church in Sun Valley reported three Coronavirus cases after holding indoor services. Awaken Church campuses in San Diego are tied to 64 Coronavirus cases.

Pastor Decipeda justified not wearing a mask during indoor sermons as he claimed that when he is on the stage, behind the pulpit, he is more than 12 feet away from the first pew.

According to the WHO, droplets containing the virus can linger for long periods indoors with no ventilation. People spread these droplets when they talk without a mask.

The Saint Dominic Savio Church in Bellflower refuses to hold indoor services, choosing to hold mass outside or on zoom.

“Since June, all of our services have been outside,” said Pastor Mike Gergen. “We are probably going to stay outside until the summer. We are not going to open the building again.”

Gergen stated they lack the staff needed to sanitize their church for their multiple services. They also did not want to risk any chemicals staining the furniture.

In place of the church, sermons are held under large solar panels on the Dominic Savio campus. People can bring their own chairs, or listen from their cars.

“People are much more comfortable outside right now. We also try to keep interaction to a minimum,” Gergen said.

When asked if he felt it would be dangerous to follow Saint John of God’s plan to reopen, Gergen said it matters what the people think.

“My congregation feels better doing an outdoor service right now,” he said.

Saint Dominic Savio plans held a socially distanced Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17.