Grand County pastor admits COVID-19 requirements ignored at Christmas Eve service

GRAND COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A Grand County pastor admits certain COVID-19 public health requirements may not have been entirely followed during a Christmas Eve service.

Concerns were raised following the service at Stillwater Community Chapel. CarrieAnn Mathis, a Grand County resident, says she was caught off guard when she entered the lobby and noticed only a few people inside were wearing masks. She estimates at least 50 people were in attendance at the time.

“I expected to be seated in a socially distanced area by myself. We expected to see masks, we expected to see one-way entrances. We walked in there are there were pews of people in front of each other, one right after the other,” said Mathis.

Mathis says groups did not appear to be seated six feet apart from each other.

Worship services and ceremonies are considered “essential” in Colorado. That means they must do their best to follow public health recommendations but may make exceptions if they cannot conduct their essential activity within those restrictions. According to state guidelines, certain safety measures like physical distancing and mask-wearing are considered “required guidelines.”

Pastor Dan Savage with Stillwater Community Chapel says they did not intentionally violate public health guidelines. Savage says they were not prepared for the amount of people who showed up for the Christmas Eve service, since they typically have no more than 25 people. Savage says they had masks available for those in attendance but admits there were people not wearing masks. He says it can be very difficult to enforce mask-wearing during a service, especially during the singing portions.

“We’re not trying to be rebellious. I think we’ve been in compliance over the last year since this hit. Unfortunately, we weren’t last night and that is concerning to me. We’ll do everything we can moving forward to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Savage.

Mathis says with COVID-19 combined with record-breaking wildfires, Grand County can’t afford another setback.

“Just having that limited number of people exposed can affect our workers, our government, the resorts. We just need to do everything we can to stay open. We can’t let our guard down, yet. It’s not over,” said Mathis.

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