Des Plaines officials have issued new mask and social distancing guidelines amid a controversial religious gathering taking place in the Chicago suburb.
Last weekend, city officials said the "Big Tent Revival" gathering at the northwest suburban Campground "generated concerns by some community members."
"It has been estimated that over 150 people attended last weekend’s activities, raising the question of effectively being able to practice COVID-19 precautions," an alert from the city read.
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According to officials, no permit was given for the 10-day event, but "the group was told that they should abide by the 50-person limit instituted by the governor for outdoor gatherings and should adhere to face mask requirements."
"We must also be aware of the group’s First Amendment right to free speech and the freedom to practice religion," the city's statement read, adding that the gatherings have so far been peaceful.
"I want to stress that I 100% share your concerns about the potential for this gathering to lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases throughout Des Plaines," area Ald. Andrew Goczkowski wrote on Facebook. "As you likely know, positive COVID cases in Des Plaines zip codes far outpace our neighboring communities. We must remain diligent about using face masks and practicing social distancing – especially considering this event."
Earlier this week, Des Plaines Mayor Matthew Bogusz issued a supplemental emergency order, adding to statewide restrictions currently in place in Illinois.
The order requires anyone traveling through the city, residing in the city or doing business in the city to practice social distancing, wear masks if they are over the age of 2 and medically able, and limit gatherings to 50 people or less. Still, the gathering limit does not apply to religious services.
According to Goczkowski, the supplemental order puts "Des Plaines' face covering and social distancing requirements a step ahead of Governor Pritzker's executive order."
"While the governor's order has a broad exemption for the free exercise of religion, Des Plaines' new declaration ensures that we are treating all public gatherings equally, whether they are religious in nature or not," he said. "Failure to do so will result in a citation and fine. Failure to comply after a citation may result in further action."
It remains unclear if the fines will apply to individuals or to the event as a whole.
The supplemental order took effect at noon Wednesday. According to the event's page, three meetings are set to be held Friday and through the weekend.
The event's organizer, Torben Søndergaard, wrote on Facebook that meetings are set to continue, despite the new order.
"You can riot as much as you want. But you can not worship together without masks even on private property," he wrote. "The city has tried everything they can to shut our revival meeting down but couldn’t."