Houses of worship taking extra precautions to protect members from COVID-19

Hampden County

Coronavirus Resources from the CDC

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Governor Baker is warning of a growing number of COVID-19 cases associated with houses of worship. Since the spring, the state has identified 36 COVID-19 clusters involving religious institutions.

“In the last month alone, places of worship saw six clusters with 44 confirmed cases and 22 close contacts,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Now here in western Massachusetts some houses of worship, like the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts (ISWM), are taking extra precautions to keep their members safe while worshiping.

“All of the prayer spots are actually greater than six feet. I think the distance between each prayer spot where somebody would pray is probably seven or eight feet,” ISWM President, Mohammed Dastigir told 22News.

The mosque gets sanitized with a machine every day and masks must be worn at all time. When members come for the larger Friday prayer, known as Jumah, online pre-registration is required with an ID needed at the door, which now has security officers, to verify.

Before the pandemic, the mosque would have 400 to 500 members for Jumah prayer. But now there are capacity limits and the online pre-registration is used for potential contact tracing.

“You come in from one entrance, you pray and the you go out another entrance,” Dastigir told 22News.

They also broke Friday prayer into two different prayer times instead of one to ensure social distancing.

“I think we probably are going a little overboard. I’d rather we do more than do less and then regret that we could’ve done more,” Dastigir continued.

After having such success with health and safety protocols, they say now other religious institutions come in and want to emulate the safety practices they’re implementing.

“We don’t want anybody, at all, not just us to become that statistic (in reference to COVID-19 clusters at other houses of worship) so that’s why we’re asking ourselves ‘What else can we do?’, ‘What are we doing right,’ ‘What are we doing wrong?.'”

The Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts also has a COVID-19 relief program for those who need assistance regardless of your background. If you’re in need of assistance at this time due to hardships of the pandemic, contact iswmboard@yahoo.com.

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