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Hillsborough County Joint Information Center Provides Guidelines for Religious Services

COVID-19 Coronavirus Update No. 47

Hillsborough County, Fla. (April 3, 2020) - On Wednesday, April 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order stating that all persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal actions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities. The order defined "attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship," as an essential activity without specific restrictions on social distancing.

Following direction set at a Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group (EPG) meeting on Thursday, April 2, Hillsborough County's Joint Information Center (JIC) developed guidelines urging local religious leaders, and members of their congregations, to seek alternatives to large in-person gatherings, and when not able, to practice safe social distancing. The following guidelines are intended to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Guidelines for Religious Services
Religious Services are considered an essential activity under the statewide Stay at Home Order issued by Florida's Governor that takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, April 3. While the Governor's order does not place any limitations on the number of people who can attend religious services or mandate social distancing, those attending in-person religious services are urged to follow the lifesaving advice from Centers for Disease Control.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Houses of worship and religious services are essential to the fabric of every community in Hillsborough County. To promote the safety and well-being of all people, public health experts recommend that all large gatherings, including religious services, be conducted online or through other communication technology whenever possible until the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus has passed.
  • Those who choose to attend religious services in-person should follow the public health and safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. This includes providing at least 6 feet of space between attendees and avoiding gathering in groups larger than 10 people. By remaining at home whenever possible, and following the CDC guidelines, you can help stop the spread of the virus among your congregation, your friends, and your neighbors.
  • Leave your home only when absolutely necessary, limit gatherings to 10 people, and provide 6 feet of space between individuals.

The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group is comprised of three County Commissioners, the mayors from the cities of Plant City, Tampa, and Temple Terrace, the Sheriff, and Chairman of the School Board. Authority is granted by Article 8 of the Florida Constitution, Section 125.66 and Chapter 252, Florida Statutes. Hillsborough County enacted Hillsborough County Code of Ordinances and Laws Chapter 22, Article II, Sections 22-23 in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the County's residents during declared emergencies.

Hillsborough County's JIC is made up of public information officers, as well as public safety officers, from municipal governments and agencies throughout Hillsborough County, including the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and the Hillsborough County School District. The guidelines were affirmed by the Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

Get Connected. Stay Alert.
For more information on COVID-19, and any other potential emergency in the region, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe and sign up for the HCFL Alert system. Additionally, you can follow Hillsborough County on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor for updates. For general County information, call (813) 272-5900, the County's main information line.