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Catholic churches to open for Mass this weekend with safety precautions in place

You can expect face mask policies, questions about your health history, and churches will abide by social distancing guidelines laid out by Governor Northam.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — After weeks of livestreams and drive-in services, Catholic churches across Hampton Roads are preparing to open for Mass this weekend.

There will new safety precautions in place.

If you plan to attend Mass at Virginia Beach’s Church of the Holy Family, facilities manager Mark Stinard said he’ll take everyone’s temperature, and you must answer a few questions. 

“Have you or any member of your family had a fever in the last two weeks, nagging cough, difficulty breathing, or have you been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 to the best of your knowledge?” Stinard said. “I’ve also purchased thermal thermometers that will take their temperatures from six inches to a foot away.” 

You can expect the same questions at Virginia Beach’s St Nicholas Catholic Church, and face masks will be required at both places. Father Jun Balarote also says communion will look a little different.

“With the mask, they’ll receive communion. After that, they’ll step away and consume the body of Christ," Balarote said. “I'll put on my mask and sanitize my hands. There’s a table in between me and who's receives communion so I’m still practicing the six feet distancing.”

In both churches, members of the congregation will be seated six feet apart.

Holy Family’s pastor Rene Castillo said ushers will lead people to and from their seats. 

“As you know, people like to be in the same spots in church, but this time they’ll have to be directed where to sit,” Castillo said.

“We did a lot of planning, my staff. And we had a lot of webinars from our main office – diocese office. We met as a staff, already three times, just to plan for this weekend.”

Stinard said it's all about safety.

“In order to keep everyone safe this is just what we have to do,” he said. “I don’t want anyone coming here and getting that disease and going home with it or infecting everybody in my church.”

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