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Mass attendance restrictions eased to 50 percent of church capacity in Delaware

The Chrism Mass was celebrated by Bishop Malooly at Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington on July 16. Priests in attendance wore masks and practiced social distancing in accordance to health guidelines. (Dialog photo/Don Blake)

Churches in Delaware are safe to fill their houses of worship to 50 percent capacity beginning Feb. 12 after Gov. John Carney eased COVID-19 occupancy restrictions, which had been set at 40 percent capacity.

The new occupancy level matches the restriction that had been implemented earlier in Maryland. The Diocese of Wilmington includes churches in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

“Effective at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, February 12, occupancy inside restaurants, retail locations, gyms, houses of worship, arts venues, and other business locations must not exceed 50 percent of stated fire capacity,” according to a statement issued by Carney. “Businesses must continue to follow social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions issued by local and state governments.”

Carney’s modification also allows youth and amateur sports tournaments to resume with a plan approved by the Division of Public Health. Delawareans who travel out of state for sports tournaments and competitions are strongly encouraged, though no longer required, to self-quarantine in accordance with DPH guidance.

In March, Bishop Malooly announced no public Masses would be held in the diocese and dispensed of the Sunday obligation to attend Mass in an effort to limit the spread of the disease. Regulations limiting large gatherings were adopted in both Delaware and Maryland and the dispensation was intended to conform to those guidelines.

Public Masses returned by early June as the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington reopened churches in accordance with ease of restrictions aimed at limiting spread of coronavirus.

The bishop’s dispensation remains in effect. Mask use, social distancing, sanitizing and all other precautions for the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic must be followed by those who attend church in the diocese, the bishop has said.