Central Valley churches taking extra safety measures amid COVID-19 concerns

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Members of People's Church stood together in prayer on Wednesday.

The church serves thousands of people, hundreds of whom attended service on Wednesday alone.

However, amid concerns regarding the coronavirus, pastors say they're praying for the best while preparing for the worst.

Dozens of Hand sanitizer stations stand along the hallway, while Pastor Dale Oquist says they've upped their cleaning efforts.

"Our custodial crews have been doing more rigorous cleaning on anything touched by people," Oquist said.

At New Covenant Community Church in Northeast Fresno, door handles and windows are getting wiped down constantly in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Pastor Scott Gossenberger says along with following CDC guidelines, they've posted signs asking their members to avoid shaking hands with other churchgoers.

"Even this Sunday, we usually do a meet and greet where we turn around and shake hands," Gossenberger said. "We're going to take that out."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno went a step further, stating on their Facebook that they will not be offering the blood of Christ at Communion for the time being and are advising folks to keep their hands to themselves during the sign of peace and the Our Father prayer.

Pastor Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church believes this is the time people need to come together despite the concern.

"We want a sound mind," Franklin said. "We're going to do what we need to do. We're going to wash our hands and stay home if we feel sick."

He says about 1,000 people attend their service on Sunday, and many of them are continuing to come and worship.

"We're not handshaking, we're not hugging each other, but we're not going to lose the opportunity to share a message of faith," Franklin said.

Oquist says if worst comes to worst, however, they may start having members worship from where they live.

"We would never cancel a Sunday, but we have the ability to be online so people can worship at homes," Oquist said.

Many of the churches ABC30 spoke with say they already stream their services online.

New Covenant Church says depending on this development with this virus, an option may be pre-recording their service and post that online in an effort to keep service members at home.
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