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Billings churches taking precaution during services for coronavirus

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Posted at 11:18 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 01:18:18-04

BILLINGS — The risk of death from the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus remains low for most people, but it rises significantly for older members of the population and for those with other chronic health problems.

Several Billings-area churches are taking steps to try and reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading in their congregations. Central Christian Church in Billings, like many others across the nation, is changing the way it typically does some parts of its service.

“We don't want to live in fear, but we do want to be respectful and careful," said the Rev. Doug Garner. “You know there are a lot of people out there, that their immune systems are compromised, such as people who are taking chemotherapy for instance. Or elderly, so we want to be very careful with that.”

Church members are being told to give fist bumps or elbow bumps instead of hugs when greeting each other, and new precautions are also being taken when serving communion.

“We just want to reduce the amount of contact, especially in the way we do communion, which is very hands on with people reaching into the tray. So we have gloved up to reduce chances of transmission,” said Garner.

No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Montana. A part-time Lake County resident tested positive for the disease in Maryland Wednesday, but public-health officials say she hadn't been in the state in four months.

Many of the members of the members of the church are over the age of 60 and fall into that high risk category for coronavirus.

The Unified Health Command in Yellowstone County is advising those over the age of 60 and those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems to take precautions other than just good hand washing.

Some of those precautions include:

  • Stocking up on household supplies, medicines, and groceries.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting your home.
  • Avoiding crowds, especially in closed-in settings.
  • Staying home as much as possible if an outbreak does occur.
  • Calling a health provider immediately if you have any symptoms—including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

For more information on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control website or RiverStone Health.