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New York State church leaders adapt to coronavirus restrictions

'I think until we see zero cases, until we see this pandemic over, life won’t be as usual in the church or anywhere else,' Pastor Darius Pridgen said.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Friday, a federal judge blocked New York State from enforcing coronavirus restrictions limiting indoor religious gatherings to 25 percent capacity when other types of gatherings are limited to 50 percent.

The capacity restrictions were put in place by executive order to contain the spread of the virus.

However, the decision doesn't necessarily mean religious leaders will be making changes right away.

Darius Pridgen, the pastor at True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo, told 2 On Your Side, "Regardless of what the judge says or what anybody else says, at the end of the day, I still think that whether it’s a church or whether it’s a restaurant, we have to open up smartly and not push a whole bunch of people into a room but to continue that social distance.” 

He said throughout the pandemic, they've come up with ways to limit capacity at services.

"We continue to stream over social media networks and, at our church, people have to call in to register so that we can try to keep those numbers down," Pridgen explained.

Other houses of worship have also gotten creative over these last several weeks.

For example, we're starting to see more outdoor services.

There was one on Saturday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Alden.

“This is our weekly mass but instead of being inside it’s outside," said Debbie Brown, the pastoral administrator. She added, "Wearing masks and being outside is for our most vulnerable population."

Those in attendance can participate from their cars or pull up a chair. Masses are also streamed online.

"We are very cautious as a church knowing this is where people gather and this is where risk happens. I want to keep everybody safe," Brown said.

People who do want to come inside for a traditional Mass are invited in at 8:30 a.m. on weekdays for a social distanced and limited capacity service.

For now, Brown said they're not making any immediate changes either.

“Most of my people that want to go inside, that miss the inside, are the at-risk group for the virus so my overriding decisions on anything is to keep them safe," Brown explained. 

Pridgen added, "I think until we see zero cases, until we see this pandemic over, life won’t be as usual in the church or anywhere else.”

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