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Some Tampa Bay churches plan to reopen, others stay virtual for now

The Diocese of St. Petersburg will allow church-goers to attend mass next weekend.

TAMPA, Fla. — Today marks the first Sunday since President Donald Trump called on governors to let churches and other houses of worship to reopen, something already allowed in Florida.

Local religious groups are trying to balance safety with the desire to welcome people back during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"We’ve tried very hard to keep everyone at home. I end many of my services by reminding people to wear a mask," Rabbi Josh Hearshen told 10 Tampa Bay.

Hearshen of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa has been encouraging social distancing by holding services over Zoom and Facebook Live, plus “drive-in” services.

"This past Friday night, taking cues from other religious organizations we decided to have a drive-in Shabbat, Friday night service," he said.

The synagogue put together a committee to help decide when it will resume more traditional forms of worship. 

"We’ve been talking about, a while, when do we get to do things like we used to? And the answer is we don’t, right now. The old normal isn’t going to come back for a while," he said.

There's no exact plan as to when they'll go back. On the other hand, Catholics around Tampa Bay do have a date, but it wasn't today. The Diocese of St. Petersburg will allow church-goers to attend mass next weekend.

"So, we’ve opened up weekday mass and now we’re preparing for next Sunday to open up Sunday mass," Father Gary Dowsey of Our Lady of Lourdes said. 

He explained the reopening will be slow and careful and says he still wants anyone with underlying health conditions to stay home and stream mass. 

Those who pray in person will see changes.

"We’re asking people to wear masks, we have sanitizer machines around the church, the ones they use in hospitals, we also have signs about safe social distancing, we’re encouraging everyone to be sensible," he said.

RELATED: 'We're not ready': Churches hesitant to open despite President Trump's blessing

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