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A group of religious leaders in Windsor, Ont., say they are pausing in-person services as COVID-19 infections rise in the city.

Current restrictions in the region allow religious services to fill 30 per cent of a room’s capacity with physical distancing.

But more than a dozen church leaders say in an open letter that they are suspending in-person worship and moving services online in light of increasing cases.

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“We love to gather and worship together on Sunday morning, but our faith is so much more than one day a week, and we consider it an honour to lay down our privileges for the sake of our neighbours and larger community,” said the letter, which was posted online Thursday afternoon.

Rev. Robert Clifford of All Saints’ Anglican Church and Rev. Rielly McLaren of the Windsor Mennonite Fellowship authored the letter that was co-signed by a larger group of clergy representing local churches.

In addition to online services, the leaders write that they will keep in touch with congregations through phone calls and letters.

The group says the traditional role of the church as a place to gather will be different this year “in the midst of the current season of escalating public health alert.”

“We know there are some church communities that have chosen a different path and will continue to gather throughout the coming weeks – while we disagree with their approach, we will, as always, uphold them in prayer,” the letter adds.

The commitment from church leaders comes as public-health officials ordered area schools to move classes online starting Monday until next Friday, when the winter break begins.

As of Friday, Windsor-Essex was reporting 706 active COVID-19 cases. The local health unit has also declared two active outbreaks in schools.

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Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the region’s top doctor, said the school closing may be extended depending on COVID-19 rates in the region.

Dr. Ahmed told a Friday news conference that the measure was taken to protect students.

“Obviously, every time you have an increase of cases in the community, you will see a spillover effect in the schools,” he said.

“We need an extra layer of protection for these students because otherwise, there may be a possibility that it can get worse.”

With files from Denise Paglinawan.

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