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Religious organizations can increase capacity with vaccinated-only sections in Washington state

Religious organizations are allowed to reserve sections for those who are fully vaccinated.

REDMOND, Wash. — Washington Cathedral in Redmond is preparing to open in-person worship to more people thanks to new guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee's office.

"Anything that can increase capacity is good news for us," said senior pastor Tim White. 

White's church was able to make the transition to online services during the height of the pandemic. Now, his church is preparing for another change. 

"We've been really blessed the whole time. Our churches have grown with the online services -- we had 40,000 at Easter," White said.

Inslee issued new guidance for faith-based organizations, allowing for increased capacity to 50% in Phase 2 if they offer vaccinated-only sections.

Religious organizations are allowed to reserve sections for those who are fully vaccinated. Individuals in the reserved sections do not need to be physically distanced. 

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Guidance from Inslee states that for faith-based organizations that offer both vaccinated and unvaccinated sections, the vaccinated-only sections can be at full capacity. Unvaccinated sections will be limited to 25% capacity. 

"We'll continue with online, and we'll have in person," said White. "I think it's gonna take a while... because people are cautious of coming back." 

Still, this is welcome news as the church was preparing for more changes under King County's expected rollback to Phase 2 this week, which would have reduced capacity to 25%.

"We've lost members to COVID, and that's been so sad and so we really appreciate everyone's caution," said White. 

Based on the updated guidance, each person in the vaccination-only section has to provide acceptable proof of a full vaccination (or a negative COVID-19 test).