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Handshakes on hold at many churches to curb germs
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Every week when the praise band at Gainesville First United Methodist Church prays, members hold hands. Last week was the first week they did not.

"Instead of holding hands this week, we stood in a circle and touched toes as we prayed," said Wendy Cordova, pastor of evangelism and lay ministry at the church, noting the band had been sharing a cold among themselves. "We were (still) connected, but not sharing any germs."

With flu season still at its peak, churches throughout the community are taking precautions and making adjustments during services.

"The hospitalization rate for people 65 years and older is the highest recorded since The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking that information," the CDC reported.

Cordova said her church always ends worship by having people hold hands, but the past couple of weeks Senior Pastor Terry Walton has not done that.

"He has invited people to touch shoulders or an elbow with this being flu season," she added.

According to the CDC, flu season peaks from November to March. Older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, are at greater risk for serious flu complications.

And the main way the flu is spread is from person to person via respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes, the CDC reports.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta encourages the Catholic churches under its jurisdiction to follow the CDC’s recommendations, said Paula Gwynn Grant, archdiocesan director of communications.

To stop the spread of germs, Catholic pastors are telling their congregations, "If you have a germ please do not partake" from the chalice, Grant added.

While passing the blessed common cup is one way of spreading germs, Grant said this is a time of year where common sense prevails.

Other churches are providing other preventative measures.

"We have hand sanitizers all around," First Baptist Church of Gainesville senior pastor Bill Coates said."They are just there and available so people will see them and know to hopefully use them."

Coates also encourages fewer handshakes when the congregation greets one another.

"Just bump the person next to you or just nod to the person around you and welcome them, but don’t shake hands today," he said.

Coates’ goal is to make everyone as aware as possible so maybe his congregation can remain healthy by making small, but still welcoming changes.


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