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Governor extends ban on large groups to places of worship

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

On the day before Easter Sunday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham broadened her public health order banning big gatherings to include houses of worship statewide.

The order – aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 – did not previously include places of worship, though many congregations had already canceled in-person services, the Governor’s Office said Saturday in announcing the expansion of the order.

As Easter approached, however, officials learned that some groups were making other plans.

“We’re incredibly grateful that so many houses of worship already took action of their own,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Saturday. “However, there have been a few outliers, putting New Mexicans at risk. We were hearing additional ones planning on holding services (Sunday) … and we wanted to be crystal clear.”

Of the 39 states that have implemented stay-at-home orders, only 11 now have exceptions for religious gatherings, and most of those require social distancing at services, according to the news release from the Governor’s Office. The majority of New Mexico churches, synagogues and mosques already ended face-to-face gatherings, and many churches are planning virtual Easter services via livestream, broadcast or other technical means.

“We know that you want to practice your faith, as you should. But this year we must remember that home is holy. The best thing you can do for your community is to stay there,” Lujan Grisham said in the release. “While this will be emotionally difficult for so many New Mexicans, public health must be the top priority. The only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is by staying home and minimizing all person-to-person contact.”

Many churches offering virtual Easter services

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