Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Nov 12, 2020 / 15:00 pm
The Diocese of Portland, Maine, has expressed frustration at being excluded from conversations with the state governor over safe reopening practices during the coronavirus pandemic after church capacity was again reduced to 50 people.
“It’s really frustrating since all 141 Catholic churches in Maine have followed the protocols set forth by the state and have had zero outbreaks or cases stemming from Masses,” Dave Guthro, director of communications for the Diocese of Portland, told CNA on Thursday.
Following months of tight lockdown restrictions, Churches in the state had briefly been allowed to host 50% of building capacity, up 100 people total, for indoor gatherings, including Mass. On Nov. 1, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced that due to a rising number of cases and hospitalizations, the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings will be lowered again to 50 total.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people, with a requirement that there be 1,000 square feet for every five people present.
Guthro said the state’s only Catholic diocese had repeatedly asked the governor to re-examine the capacity restrictions, but has so far received “no response.”
Other New England states, including neighboring New Hampshire, allow for houses of worship to seat a percentage of the building’s capacity. Guthro said that the Diocese of Portland has requested that Maine adopt similar policies, to no avail.
“The governor is well aware of the policies in other states, and yet has declined to personally respond to our inquiries,” Guthro told CNA.
In Maine, retail establishments, including restaurants with indoor dining, are allowed to operate with a capacity based on the size of the building. Guthro told CNA that he “absolutely” thinks churches should be subjected to similar regulations as restaurants and grocery stores.