(FOX 9) - Christmas is now exactly one week away and countless people are deciding what their plans will be during a pandemic.
If heading to church service may still be part of your tradition this year, there’s are some things to be aware of, from reservations to conflicting recommendations.
In a non-COVID-19 year, a full Christmas and Christmas Eve mass schedule may pack up to 15,000 people into the pews of the Basilica of St. Mary. But on Christmas 2020, safety guidelines from the state and the Archdiocese are front and center.
Capacity capped at 250 people per mass with reservations required for contact tracing just in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
"Thankfully, we have been spared from any of that but we will continue doing it as long as it's necessary because we want to be prepared, God forbid, but in case something happens."
Temperature checks also remain in place, along with a list of other cleaning and social distancing protocols.
"It's an indoor experience so, by definition, it’s going to be put in a riskier category."
Opinions within the medical community vary about how risky praying publically in a pandemic might be.
"I would caution people not to feel too reassured by temperature checks because we know there’s asymptomatic spread happening in the community. So you could get a temp check and still have the virus and still transmit the virus."
"If they are operating with good distancing, rigorous mask enforcement, and reducing capacity, it’s probably safe enough."
At Temple Israel, where Hanukkah wrapped up Thursday night, everything has been online only since spring.
"It’s really about a community taking care of yourself and taking care of one another."
At the Basilica and many area churches, virtual Christmas celebrations continue to be an option. They expect the average 1,000 Catholics tuning in each day to skyrocket to 25,000 this time next week.
"It will be a very different Christmas but still, in these dark days, we hope we will bring light to people who come here or people who are with us from their homes."