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Fraser Health CEO asks church leaders threatening to defy COVID safety orders to cooperate

Last Updated Dec 7, 2020 at 7:53 am PST

An empty Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver (Courtesy YouTube)
Summary

Head of Fraser Health Authority asking faith leaders to hold Sunday services online again rather than in-person

The request comes one week after a few churches in the region opened their doors in defiance of pandemic safety orders

SURREY (NEWS 1130) –The president and CEO of the Fraser Health Authority is asking all faith leaders in that region to hold Sunday services online rather than in-person again.

The reminder comes one week after multiple churches in Chilliwack and one in Langley opened their doors, despite pandemic-related orders stating no large gatherings are allowed until surging case numbers come down enough to make that possible again.

Dr. Victoria Lee admits she’s worried because numerous exposures have been linked to places of worship.

“We really want to ensure that we’re all abiding by public health measures at this time to reduce risks, so we can get back to doing those things that are important, but right now is not the time.”

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Lee tells NEWS 1130 the stakes are too high to host any large gatherings in an area responsible for nearly two-thirds of all COVID-19 cases across B.C.

“I am very concerned some places of worship do not believe there’s been transmission,” she says. “There is absolutely transmissions that have occurred in places of worship –in temples, churches and prayer gatherings, so whenever people are gathering in person, COVID-19 can be transmitted and right now, it’s too risky to do this.”

Last Sunday, one church in Langley was fined for holding services.

A couple churches in Chilliwack chose to ignore public health orders, but they haven’t been ticketed yet.

Most religious leaders have been advising followers to stay home and worship online, but some leaders have suggested forcing churches’ to close violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They’re also upset restaurants and pubs are allowed to stay open.

Lee says transmission rates in those places have not been linked to as many cases as faith-based events have.

“The best way for religious organizations to protect their members is to hold their services and gather virtually, and right now, we need to ensure that all of these things occur virtually.”