By Ashley Feeney
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Baltimore County is asking faith-based institutions to help fight the coronavirus by encouraging their parishioners, educational affiliates and community members to follow safeguard measures that prevent COVID-19.
In a health notice sent to churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions, the county asked that religious leaders remind their members to wash their hands, wear masks, practice social distancing and refrain from attending large gatherings.
“Faith-based institutions have a long-standing tradition of serving as anchors in communities and a focal point for the distribution of information and guidance,” Baltimore County Health Officer Gregory Wm. Branch said in a statement. “We are relying on these institutions to emphasize to their parishioners and their neighboring communities the importance of safeguarding against the coronavirus.”
The Rev. Evers Burns of the Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Gwynn Oak said he believes it is especially important for people in the county to practicing safety guidelines with the flu season starting soon.
“We haven’t experienced the pandemic during the flu season,” Burns said. “It is important for people in our community to take caution and continue washing their hands and practicing social distancing to stop COVID-19.”
Burns agreed that faith-based institutions can be a powerful force in spreading information about safety precautions to their followers.
“We want people in our community to read our message and to hear us,” Burns said. “I believe that people will listen because we have so much influence to help others embrace their faith and how they feel when they might be afraid to recognize the problem.”
Andee Pirog, the youth director at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Lochearn, agreed.
“Being a part of the Baptist faith has really shown me what the community can do for you,” Pirog said. “We are able to be heard and show our feelings on how the pandemic is effecting this community.”
The health notice also called for churches that are affiliate with schools to encourage facilities to follow and practice guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“With the flu season right around the corner it is more important than ever for residents to adhere to the recommendations of national, state and local health officials,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski said. “Our faith-based organizations are some of our most valuable partners in helping to drive home that message.”