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FRANKLIN, Wisc. — The Wisconsin Council of Churches is recommending its 2,000 member churches return to virtual services amid the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The group made the announcement Wednesday.

Reverend Daniel Schultz, the council’s Community Health Program Director says, “We are encouraging congregations to go back to online worship or other forms of remote gathering. It’s an important step to take, and to take now before things get really bad and a bunch of people end up in the hospital.”

One of the council’s member churches, Faith Presbyterian Church in Franklin, made the decision to go back to virtual worship services.

Reverend Beth Patton said, “We felt that it was important to take that step now as the virus spread and the positivity rate increased.”

Patton says her congregation has been back in person since May, but only about a quarter of the congregation has been attending in person and they were social distanced.

“We required masks and did temperature, and contract tracing [by] having people sign up before worship” Patton said.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee hasn’t recommended virtual services to its churches yet but said this in a statement.

“The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is recommending that our 192 parishes continue providing the precautions they have in place which may include areas set aside for social distancing and masking, availability of hand sanitizer and cleaning protocols. We are also encouraging parishioners to take the precautions they feel are necessary according to their own personal health status.”

The Oak Creek Assembly of God Church in southern Milwaukee County said they have added additional Sunday services since the pandemic began to allow for social distancing.

In a statement church leaders said the following:

“Our focus as a church remains sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and providing a safe place for people to come and worship as one family. We encourage all attendees to be aware of the latest local and national health guidelines regarding Covid-19. 

 Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have arranged areas of staggered seating in our main sanctuary for Sunday services with guests sitting every other row to help keep a 6-foot distance. Last March, we expanded from two to three Sunday morning services to allow for more physical distancing. We also offer sections where masks are required and have hand sanitizer stations throughout our building.

 If anyone feels sick or is experiencing cold, flu or Covid-19 symptoms, we ask that they stay home, contact their doctor and consider getting tested.”

The Council of Churches has recommended that member parishes stay virtual for the next 4 to 6 weeks, while tracking the COVID positivity rate in their area.

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