Indiana governor directs in-person church services to stop as death toll rises

Gov. Holcomb updates state's response to COVID-19

INDIANAPOLIS (FOX19) - Another 42 people have died from coronavirus in Indiana, state health officials said Thursday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 245.

The state now has 6,351 confirmed cases on 32,133 tests.

Here is the breakdown of cases and deaths for counties in the FOX19 NOW viewing area:

  • Franklin County: 64 cases, 7 deaths
  • Switzerland County: 13 cases, zero deaths
  • Dearborn County: 52 cases, 2 death
  • Ohio County: 1 case, zero deaths
  • Ripley County: 77 cases, 3 deaths
  • Fayette County: 19 cases, 3 deaths

Complete coronavirus coverage | Interactive map: Coronavirus cases by zip code in Cincinnati, Hamilton County

Meanwhile, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order for places of worship in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order states all public and private gatherings, including those religious and spiritual in nature, should follow CDC guidance restricting gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

The full order can be found here.

The order’s actual text exempts “religious facilities, entities and groups, and religious gatherings provided they adhere to the CDC’s guidance on social gatherings.”

But church buildings and other physical locations for worship “should be closed,” according to a release from the governor’s office issued shortly after his Thursday press briefing.

FOX19 NOW reached out for clarity regarding the order. Press secretary Rachel Hoffmeyer had this to say:

“Churches shouldn’t be using their facilities to hold gatherings, such as worship services. They can use their buildings to conduct essential business, such as livestreaming worship services with minimal religious leaders.”

The initial governor’s office release also suggests live-streaming services as an alternative to in-person worship, though it adds the minimum number of personnel should be on site.

Drive-in services may be conducted only if attendees are inside their vehicles at all times; attendees not physically interact with clergy, staff or other participants; vehicles contain only members of a single household; vehicles are spaced nine feet apart; no portable bathrooms or church facilities are used.

The release adds for drive-in services it is preferred that no communion be distributed.

“During this time of uncertainty, faith is more important than ever, and I am deeply grateful to our religious leaders for their efforts to find safe and creative ways to serve their communities,” Holcomb said. “The purpose of this guidance is not to restrict religious liberty, but to save lives during these extraordinary times.

"I look forward to the day where we can once again worship side-by-side without the threat of spreading coronavirus.”

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