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South Florida churches taking precautions amid coronavirus concerns

Some churches discourage hugging, shaking hands
Posted at 5:18 PM, Mar 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-04 18:49:22-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Schools, hospitals and police departments are all doing their part to stay ahead of the coronavirus and so are religious institutions. Several churches in the area are implementing changes to protect their members.

Payne Chapel AME Church in West Palm Beach has a new cleaning routine.

"We're wiping down the hard surfaces before and after service," James Carman, vice president of the Board of Trustees for the church, told WPTV NewsChannel 5.

On any given weekend there could be 200 people in and out of the church for worship, which is why Carman is taking precautions to protect members from possible exposure to the coronavirus.

"It's very concerning and we do have an aging population in the church," Carman said. "With sneezing and coughing, things like that, we do have the missionaries put out tissues constantly, everywhere."

Hand sanitizer dispensers have been ordered and will be placed at every entry way.

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"It makes me feel really safe because I know that you can't be too safe about doing things to protect yourself," said Rebecca Rigsby, a volunteer and church member at Payne Chapel AME church. "I've been attending this church since I was 6 years old and I'm 72 years old."

Rigsby helps organize fellowship meetings for the senior citizens who attend the church. Wednesday was the first day the church reopened after a few months of renovations, so it was hugs for everyone. But moving forward, that is likely to change.

"You don't want to insult anyone by not wanting to shake their hands or give them a hug, but it is serious and it's something that we all should think about," Rigsby said.

Some clergy members are discouraging hugging or shaking hands completely now as a precaution. The Diocese of Palm Beach released a guide for churches and is asking members to stay home if they are sick and opt for a televised mass instead.