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The original item was published from 4/30/2020 2:59:38 PM to 5/16/2020 12:00:01 AM.

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Posted on: April 29, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Wilkes municipalities amend order to permit drive-in religious services

[Wilkesboro, NC, April 30, 2020] – The towns of Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro, and Ronda have amended their State of Emergency declaration to permit drive-in church services under certain conditions. This amendment aligns the towns’ interpretation of permitted gatherings more closely with that of Governor Cooper, who shared earlier this month that drive-in services “appear to be acceptable as long as individuals remain in their vehicles and avoid contact.” Previously, the towns interpreted drive-in services of more than ten individuals as prohibited gatherings.

The amended declaration takes effect May 1, 2020.

Mayors Mike Inscore of Wilkesboro, Robert Johnson of North Wilkesboro, and Victor Varela of Ronda agreed to the change as an acknowledgement of the importance of religious communion to area residents trying to ride out the coronavirus.

The amendment requires that organizers of drive-in services take certain measures to ensure social-distancing and minimize the opportunities for person-to-person transmission of the virus. These measures are:

  • A physical buffer of at least six feet must be maintained between vehicles, with a recommendation that vehicle windows remain closed.
  • Attendees must remain in their respective vehicles at all times with no person to person contact with individuals outside the vehicle.
  • Church buildings must remain locked to the congregation before, during, and after the service.
  • Church buses, vans, or other vehicles with a capacity of more than ten passengers are not permitted.
  • The order discourages vehicle to vehicle collections of offerings, and proposes an alternative drop off collection strategy. If offerings are collected in person, however, the individuals collecting must wear face masks and gloves.

All other gatherings of more than ten individuals, whether indoor or outdoor, remain prohibited within town limits through at least May 15, 2020. 

Notwithstanding this change, the mayors strongly encourage all residents to stay at home to the fullest extent possible. The Wilkes County area is in the midst of a spike in confirmed cases, and maintaining strict physical distancing is the only way to break the chain of transmission. Even with protective measures in place, drive-in services pose a risk of transmission to attendees and corresponding community spread to other residents.  

Wilkes County, Wilkesboro, North Wilkesboro, and Ronda initially issued a joint State of Emergency Declaration on March 13, 2020, and jointly amended it on March 19, 2020. On March 25 and April 1, 2020, the three municipalities jointly amended their declaration to implement additional, town-specific measures.

This is the fourth amendment to the State of Emergency declaration by the towns.

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