Baker: Many COVID-19 clusters stem from religious services

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Vivian de Pina, 5, receives a COVID-19 test as her sisters Carla, 6, left, and Kataleya, 4, watch, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker is urging those attending services at houses of worship to adhere to COVID-19 precautions, like wearing masks and practicing social distancing particularly for indoor services.

The state is still seeing too many COVID-19 clusters that can be traced back to houses of worship, the Republican said at a Tuesday press conference. Since the start of the pandemic, houses of workshop have experienced a total of 36 clusters, Baker said.

“We know that houses of worship have always served as a place of refuge especially in difficult times like this,” Baker said at a press conference. “But as with all gatherings, protocols have been put in place to ensure that services and other functions that happen in houses of worship happen as safely as possible.”

Baker said many of the state’s faith leaders have stepped up by moving services online or holding them outside if possible.

“It’s critically important that if you do attend an in-person service please do wear a mask,” he said. “Keep your distance.”

Bakers comments come after the Supreme Court last week barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus.

Baker said the issue with the New York case was the decision to have one standard for formal gatherings generally and a separate standard for religious institutions.

Massachusetts doesn’t run afoul of the court ruling because the state for the most part is applying the same rules about distancing and capacity to all gathering places, Baker said.

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