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South Bay church leaders warn people not to attend huge annual religious event

Photo: facebook.com/DioceseSanJose
By Wesley Severson - Published on December 12, 2020.

With the pandemic worsening across Santa Clara County, leaders of the Catholic Church came together Friday to issue a stern message to people who were planning to celebrate Our lady of Guadalupe: Don’t come!

The annual religious celebration normally brings upwards of 10,000 people to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on East San Antonio Street. Many of them say prayers and leave flowers as a way of honoring the Virgin Mary

With cases surging across Santa Clara County, the Diocese of San Jose held a press conference in conjunction with the Santa Clara Public Health Department to tell people to stay home. 

Leaders are worried that if people do show up this weekend it could turn into a super-spreader event impacting the already hard-hit Latinx community in San Jose.

“We are absolutely concerned about the well-being of the general public as well as our own congregants. We are in an extraordinary time of the pandemic, it calls for extraordinary measures,” said Bishop Oscar Cantu of the Diocese of San Jose to KPIX

The Diocese is recommending that families pay tribute instead by making small altars at their own homes this weekend and by watching church services online together.

Officials say the risk is just too high right now to have anyone gathered at the church and they want to do everything they can to make sure people don’t show up and stand in crowds like in years past.

According to Santa Clara County’s coronavirus dashboard, Latinx people account for 55.4% of all the coronavirus cases in the county.

The situation has gotten so bad for that specific community that the Santa Clara County Public Health Department started doing door-to-door testing in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in East San Jose this week, along with some neighborhoods in the southern portions of the county around Gilroy. 

The county believes that many of the people in these areas can’t afford private tests, don’t have a way to get to public testing centers, or they might be worried about immigration officials at the testing facilities.

"The plan is to canvass the area before arriving so families know to expect us, and that this is a legitimate service," Dr. Analilia Garcia, Racial & Health Equity Director for Santa Clara County told KPIX.

Church safety has been highlighted this week after Calvary Chapel in San Jose, a Christian church, was held in contempt and fined $55,000 dollars by the county for repeatedly holding services with hundreds of people for the last several months. 

Despite the punishment, Calvary Chapel still says it will hold normal indoor services this weekend along with a service on Christmas Eve.

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