GREENSBORO — Guilford County residents can now attend “drive-in” religious services from inside their cars and they once again can buy those cars in person at a dealership, thanks to changes to the COVID-19 rule book that local leaders announced Friday.
County officials joined Greensboro and High Point leaders in making changes to their coronavirus “stay-at-home” order to let people attend group religious services in cars — each parked 6 feet apart in marked locations to maintain sufficient distance to prevent spread of the highly contagious virus.
The revised order also loosens restrictions on car sales that previously had limited transactions to online purchases.
Now car dealers will be able to host potential buyers in person at their showrooms, as long as there are no more than 10 people in the room at any one time including staff and customers.
In a news release, local officials said the changes were aimed at bringing the countywide edict more in line with an executive order that Gov. Roy Cooper issued Thursday afternoon.
But Jeff Phillips, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, indicated that officials also had their eyes on the significance of Easter services to many of their constituents.
“We understand the importance of this time of year within our religious community and the need for individuals to be able to exercise their religious beliefs while being cognizant of public health concerns,” Phillips said in a news release.
The order limits congregations to one “drive-in” religious service per week, which presumably could be conducted in a parking lot or some other similar open space.
Aiming to keep the distance between people that is considered safe to prevent spread of the contagious virus, the new rules require the lot to be marked off with signs, tape or other means to show where each vehicle should park.
The new rules call for each car to include only members of the same family, no more than 50 vehicles per service, no buses or vans, and “all members not actively engaged in presenting the service” remaining inside their vehicles.
The relaxed provisions also allow car dealers to give prospective customers a test drive if the customer requests one. But the car must be “completely sanitized with COVID-19 approved cleanser and outfitted with disposable seat mats.”
The new order includes a variety of other additional requirements for in-person car sales that range from banning customer lounges to requiring that dealerships make “hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers.”
No window shopping, either: In-person car sales are supposed to be conducted by appointment only as long as the order is in effect.
The countywide order is set to expire on Thursday, but can be extended indefinitely while the coronavirus remains a threat.
The state’s stay-at-home order is in effect through April 29.
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