Health departments advise celebrating upcoming holidays at home

CENTRAL WISCONSIN, Wis. (WSAW) -- Health departments are encouraging people not to gather for religious holidays this weekend.

A sign on the door of a church in Marshfield reminds members there are no gatherings of 10 or more allowed (WSAW Photo).

The Wood County Health Department sent a letter to churches and temples, reminding them of the important role they can play in helping social distancing.

And if you're celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend, while it may be tempting to gather with friends and family, the department asks you to think of others who may be affected if you choose to leave the house.

Wood County Health Department Director Sue Kunferman says leaving the house means an increased risk for traffic accidents, which could endanger police and EMS. Which is why her department sent a letter asking churches and temples not to hold gatherings.

"They could have a car accident while they're out and about for a non-essential event, resulting in our emergency medical services having to go out and take care of them, placing them at risk. They could put law enforcement officials at risk as well. And those other partners are extremely busy too with responding to this pandemic," Kunferman said by phone Wednesday.

Health departments in Marathon, Waushara and Oneida counties made statements echoing her concern. But that doesn't mean you can't still honor the holidays at home.

"We understand the value of our faith-based community, we understand the hope and the encouragement the relationship with God and our churches can bring us, especially during a time like this that is so, so challenging,” she said.

"Thankfully, with modern technology there are many creative options available for staying connected and nurturing spiritual health during this challenging time," said a release from the Oneida County Health Department. "We sympathize with congregants of faith and spiritual-based organizations that miss the services and fellowship."

Several health departments said they've been impressed with the creative ways churches and temples have helped members express their faith, making use of radio, television and web services.