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Parking lot worship: Guilford County makes changes to stay-at-home order to allow drive-in religious services

County leaders said they wanted to accommodate Easter, Passover and Ramadan celebrations.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford county made some changes to its stay-at-home order, just in time for Easter.

Amendments to the county's stay-at-home order went into effect Friday. It includes guidelines for drive-in religious services and modifications to car dealership operations.

Religious drive-in services are now permitted once a week, with at least six feet of separation between cars. Those leading services must also maintain a six-foot radius from others.

"Instead of saying amen, honk your horn or something you know," said Jim Scott, the pastor at Awaken Church, "It's strange but it's still an opportunity to come and worship."

Scott's church is nontraditional by nature. His congregation doesn't meet in a church building, but instead at Northwest Guilford High School.

Their sermons, bible studies and other worship services have moved online in recent weeks. Now he has permission from the school to use the parking lot for worship Sunday.

"We've got a great sound system that's portable so we can put it out there so everybody can hear it. It's gonna be like the old days of drive-in movie theaters," said Scott.

Only families can be inside cars together with no more than 50 cars in a parking lot at a time.

Felicia Wall and fellow leaders at Greater Hope Cathedral in Greensboro were planning to do a drive-in Easter service last week but then found out that wasn't allowed under the county's original stay at home order.

She said the amendment came just in time.

"We're excited because we haven't seen each other. Like, physically seen each other even though everyone will be in their cars," said Wall, "It just kind of feels right to be close to the church on Easter Sunday."

Both Wall and Scott said they wish the county would have put the amendment in place earlier in the week, to give churches more time to prepare. Scott said he's still grateful for the opportunity.

"For [the congregation] to just get out of the house and get just a little bit of their life back. This has been a trying time for America, for the world," said Scott.

The revised proclamation modifies the operation of car dealerships with sales only being held by appointment. There can also be no more than 10 customers and employees in a showroom at a time, and all customer lounges are to be closed.

Here's a breakdown of what the new amendment does.

Church services:

• All members not leading the service must remain in their cars.

•  Requires designated six-foot distances to be marked with signage, tape, or by other means.

• Leaving an empty, marked parking space at least six feet wide between each vehicle is compliant. 

• Requires at least six feet of separation between each presenter and between presenters and drivers.

• Prohibits buses and vans except for minivans. 

• Vehicle occupancy is limited to the number of seating spaces with seatbelts.

• Does not allow sitting in truck beds or on the outside of vehicles.

Car dealership regulations and requirements include:

• Posting online whether a dealership is open and how best to reach the dealership and continue services by phone or remotely. 

• Designating six-foot distances with signage, tape, or by other means, six-foot spacing for employees and customers to maintain appropriate distance and maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals.

• Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers.

• No test drives unless expressly requested by the purchaser and only conducted under specific guidelines such as the car being completely sanitized after every test drive with a card saying the time it was driven and sanitized, customers wearing gloves provided by a dealership when test driving, disposable seat mats, and cars not test-driven after another customer in a 72-hour window.

The new proclamation also restricts movement of all individuals living, working, and otherwise conducting activities within Guilford County, the cities of Greensboro, High Point and Gibsonville and within the towns of Jamestown, Summerfield, Stokesdale, Oak Ridge, Whitsett, Sedalia, and Pleasant Garden.

Visit Guilford County’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order webpage or refer to the updated amendment for more information.

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