Capitol Hill Baptist Church (6th and A NE), which successfully sued DC government last fall to permit increased capacity for outdoor services, had its waiver request to allow a “COVID-19 Immune section” seating fully vaccinated people at 100% capacity with zero social distancing denied by DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA). DC denied the request on Wednesday, April 14th because CDC’s most updated recommendations for fully vaccinated people currently allows them to congregate with others fully vaccinated (and a household that contains unvaccinated people at low risk) without masks and social distancing indoors, but only in a home or in a private setting, not public settings. The Southern Baptist-affiliated church (incorrectly) appears to have interpreted CDC’s recommendations to allow to “gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask” in all settings (although the letter does not say whether masks would have been required in the COVID-19 Immune section). The section would have been in the church’s West Hall, allowing 328 churchgoers.
Barred in DC believes, if granted, this would have been the first use of the so-called “Vaccine Passport” in DC. Note that in NY proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test has been frequently used for admittance for fans to sporting events, but seating is still socially distant and masks are required.
DC did grant the church’s waiver request to allow 500 people indoors (110 outside) in 7 different sections for their “Non-Immune Seating” with social distancing (at least 35% capacity, but possibly 45%). This is higher than the Mayor’s order which limits capacity to 25% or 250 persons, whatever is lower.
In October 2020, the church was granted a preliminary injunction from a Federal judge to allow it hold outdoor socially distant services with no capacity limits; DC had limited outdoor gatherings to 100 people. In late November, DC lifted the cap on outdoor service.