FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Widespread risk of COVID-19 has triggered a return to the 'purple tier' for Fresno County, meaning indoor religious gatherings have been deemed unsafe.
RELATED: Fresno, Kings, Merced counties pushed back to purple tier as COVID-19 cases rise
At People's Church in northeast Fresno, about 85% of in-person gatherings and ministries have been canceled or moved online.
But Pastor Brad Liebe says with so many experiencing struggles throughout the pandemic, the church feels Sunday services are essential.
"It really isn't a time for the church to be taking a seat back or step back," says Liebe.
The church will continue to hold in-person services this weekend.
All church staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks.
Liebe says for those who are susceptible, ill, or have concerns, virtual service is still an option.
"We are not guilting or manipulating people to physically be here, but it is an option to be here," says Liebe.
Liebe feels indoor service is necessary with the weather becoming colder in the Valley.
Pastor Brad Bell from The Well agrees.
In his weekly message on Instagram Wednesday, Bell said the virus isn't going anywhere, therefore indoor operations will go on - with COVID-19 precautions in place.
"We also see spiritual health being a part of it and mental health being a part of it and relational health being a part of it," says Bell.
Masks will be required indoors at The Well, while outdoor and online services will continue to be offered.
"We aren't trying to make a statement. We are trying to care for our community," says Bell. "A church remaining open is not throwing COVID responsibilities to the wind willy nilly. Can we care for the spiritual needs for the people in our city and recognize we do have a health crisis on our hands?"
Fresno County public health officer Dr. Rais Vohra says Public Health will expect compliance from churches and houses of worship to these updated restrictions and they will be providing education to them over the weekend.
2 Fresno churches to hold indoor services this weekend despite county moving to 'purple tier'
Now that Fresno County is back in the 'purple tier', only outdoor religious gatherings are permitted, according to state guidelines.
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