Front page, above the fold in today’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News.
Riddle me this: how can you disobey a recommendation?
Liberals pretend that recommendations and laws are the same. They are not. Which is why recommendations are not enforceable, much to the chagrin of our City Council.
About 1,000 people — most or all of whom did not wear face masks nor adhere to social distancing guidelines — attended a Christ Church joint service Sunday morning at the Logos School Fieldhouse in Moscow.
Christ Church Pastor Doug Wilson, who preached at the service and provided the 1,000-person estimate, said he considered the gathering safe.
“We wouldn’t be there if we didn’t think it was safe,” Wilson said.
He said the joint service meant all three Christ Church congregations met at the Logos gymnasium at the same time. Typically, Christ Church on Sundays holds two services at the gym and one at the Nuart Theatre in downtown Moscow.
In the past couple months, Wilson said the three services averaged more than 1,000 attendees combined each week.
Wilson said the joint service was not an act of defiance, and Christ Church has held combined services in the past.
“Our church is growing and we’re looking at the prospect of planting churches,” Wilson said. “And we wanted to remain unified as we did so, and a periodic joint meeting is a good way to keep the unity.”
Wilson said the rows of chairs in the Logos gym were spaced farther apart than normal and hand sanitizer was available. He said he sent an email to the congregation before the service, urging anyone who was nervous about attending because of the coronavirus or if they were at higher risk of serious coronavirus complications to check with their doctor before attending.
“The one thing we did not do is ask everybody to wear masks,” Wilson said.
Gatherings — both public and private — of more than 50 people are allowed where appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures are observed, according to Idaho Rebounds’ fourth stage, which the state is in.
“We were following the same precautions that we’ve been following since we opened up,” Wilson said. “What we were doing was consistent with the Phase 4 opening.”
In places of worship, Carol Moehrle, Public Health-Idaho North Central District director, said the 6-foot distance recommendation means families should sit 6 feet or farther from each other.
She said face coverings are recommended when people cannot maintain 6-foot distancing.
But attendees at Sunday’s service did not wear masks nor social distance, according to a video of the service posted Sunday on the Christ Church Facebook page.
“Anytime people are that close together in a contained area, there’s always risk for this virus to be in someone whether they’re having symptoms or they’re asymptomatic,” Moehrle said.
Moscow Police Department Chief James Fry said officers did not respond to the church service and that any enforcement action would come from PH-INCD.
“We’re hopeful that the public in these groups are following the guidance, but there is no enforcement or repercussions if they don’t, except that the disease might impact one of their gatherings,” Moehrle said.
Places of worship were allowed to reopen May 1 in Idaho Rebounds’ first stage. The state recommended they adhere to physical distancing, sanitation protocol and other guidance.
They should have an operational plan in place to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. Moehrle said plans do not need to be submitted for review and approval by the public health district or any other entity.
She said she was unaware of the roughly 1,000-person Christ Church gathering and was unsure if it was the largest gathering in the five-county north-central Idaho district since the pandemic started.
Moehrle said she was also surprised by softball and basketball tournaments and a University of Idaho event this weekend in Moscow. But she said she believed those events were attended by hundreds of people — not 1,000.