Monday, September 21, 2009

H1N1, seasonal flu prompt changes at churches

From East Tennessee-

They're wreaking havoc on schools throughout East Tennessee, now the swine flu and the seasonal version are causing many people to think twice when it comes to worshiping on Sundays.

Attendance at St. Luke's Episcopal Church is usually modest, but this week an estimated 25 percent of the congregation was out sick.

At least three children have been diagnosed with swine flu, and several adults were noticeably absent as well.

"I think younger members of the congregation are scared. I think fear is partly keeping others away," Senior Warden John Mott said.

It's a larger scale but similar song at Sevier Heights Baptist Church.

"We have concerns about about our staff and just the normal operation, but also the large number of people who come here, chances are good that some of them are going to get it," Pastor David Harkins said.

They've added hand sanitizer dispensers in the foyers and hallways, and toys in the nursery are now cleaned thoroughly at the end of each day.

The sheer size of the congregation is enough to cause concern. Church officials plan to follow advice of the Knox County Health Department when it comes to decisions regarding closures. Assemblies of 10,000 or more will be first.

"Until we hear that they're canceling basketball games, UT football games, things like that, it's still going to be safe for us to have a church service," Harkins said.

Harkins said any changes to their worship schedule will be posted on their website.

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