RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Now that Gov. Roy Cooper has lifted North Carolina’s COVID-19 mask and social distancing mandates, several churches in the Triangle are loosening their restrictions.
Fully vaccinated members of St. Joseph A.M.E. Church in Durham will be able to attend worship services without a mask.
“We are looking forward to proceeding with optimism, and with cautious optimism,” said Rev. Jay Augustine.
When the coronavirus pandemic started, the church created a Pandemic Response Team made up of members in the health and medical field to focus on safety protocols.
Augustine tells CBS 17 he consulted with them before making the change.
“We recognize that people who have been vaccinated, myself included, are anxious and excited,” said Augustine. “We’re ready to get back to normalcy, but we also recognize there are dangers of transmittal for those who have not yet been vaccinated.”
Because of that, the church will still video stream services online. Augustine says he plans on bringing back two worship services and possibly adding a third that appeals to the younger generation.
“We want to make sure people have the room and physical space to come back and enjoy church life and personal interactions as they did prior to the pandemic. But we want more than anything to keep people safe,” he said.
Fully vaccinated parishioners at The Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral in Raleigh also have the option to wear masks during services. But Gov. Cooper’s decision to lift restrictions caught the reopening team at St. Raphael’s Church off guard.
“Coming up with plans, it’s actually sudden news was unhelpful because these tend to be pretty complicated to figure out,” said Jeff Rice, leader of Reopen Team for Worship at St. Raphael‘s Church.
The church refilled the holy water fonts on Sunday for the first time since the pandemic, but for now, masks and social distancing are still required.
“Little by little, we’ll have a slow return to normal,” said Rice.
Details still need to be worked out, but Rice tells CBS 17 that new normal will likely include sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated members.
“We probably won’t have them pull out their CDC card, but we may ask them to attest to being vaccinated,” Rice said.