April 9, 2020 

It’s been one week since Mayor Andy Berke issued a shelter-in-place order and we appreciate everyone who observed the order over the last week. It’s vital that we continue these good practices so we can get to the other side of this quicker. 

This time of year is one of the most important for many faiths, with congregations wanting to gather to celebrate Easter and Passover. However, our recent executive orders related to the coronavirus strictly prohibit large gatherings of any kind, and this unfortunately includes worship services. While this is a deeply sad and difficult decision, situations of community and fellowship — which brings so much joy to Chattanoogans — must cease in order to stop the spread of this disease. 

Under the terms of our most recent executive order, you may drive-through a specific drop-off point at your church to make donations or pick-up food and other supplies. Person-to-person contact should be strictly limited, however. For instance, food or supplies should be placed in a car’s trunk or backseat, not handed through a window. All congregants, church staff, and volunteers must wear facemasks.

We know that the sacrifices we are asking of you are very difficult. The toughest times we face tend to bring out the best in all of us, though, and the way Chattanooga is dealing with the coronavirus is no different. In the last week, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hamilton County has grown by more than 112% and nine members of our community have lost their lives to this disease. It’s serious — and so our response has to be serious too. Please stay home.

An additional measure Mayor Berke took under his most recent executive order is to close all daycares and early childcare centers that are not serving essential workers. We know this is a stressful decision for many childcare providers and our Office of Early Learning is working with every facility in the city to make sure they understand the order and how it affects their business. OEL Director Ariel Ford did a quick video answering some of the questions we’re hearing, you can watch it here.

Lastly, we know many of you will miss being with your church family this weekend and we hate asking you to give up a lot of beloved Easter traditions this year. Your health and safety matters more than anything else right now, though, and that this sentiment is shared by every minister, priest, and faith leader in our community. The toughest times call out the best qualities in each of us, and if we all do our part, we’ll get to the other side of this that much faster.

To be clear, we cannot stress enough the importance of eliminating all non-essential travel throughout the week. Wash your hands. Disinfect and clean your home frequently. Wear your facemask. Stay home.