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Illinois churches may not fully reopen for a year as White House shelves CDC plan

The governor of Illinois has said he will continue to ban public gatherings of more than 50 people—including religious services—until a vaccine or treatment for coronavirus is available.

The announcement comes as the White House is reported to have shelved guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on gradually reopening sections of the American economy and society.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker announced Wednesday that gatherings of more than 50 people in the state would not be allowed until a coronavirus vaccine “or highly effective treatment” is “widely available.”

Public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have cautioned that a COVID-19 vaccine is at least 12 to 18 months from being developed and made available.

According to Pritzker’s five-part plan for reopening the state, gatherings of ten or fewer people are not even allowed until phase 3, the “recovery” phase that can begin, at earliest, May 29. However, following a lawsuit last week, the governor has allowed citizens to leave their homes for religious services as long as ten or fewer people are gathered for worship.

Previously, religious services of any kind in the state—including drive-in and in-person services—were curtailed during the pandemic, and even other forms of sacramental practice such as drive-in confessions were not allowed.

The Archdiocese of Chicago announced on May 1 that public Masses with 10 or fewer people would resume.

Other dioceses across the United States have already begun rolling back total suspensions on the public celebration of Mass. 

Last week, CNA reported that the White House Domestic Policy Council held a series of conference calls with bishops who had begun the process of reopening churches in line with local public health orders.

During the calls, administration officials expressed their hope to be able to support faith communities with “sensitive and respectful guidance” to help restore public worship “as soon as it is feasible.”

Read more at Catholic News Agency

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