By Maria Caspani and Katharine Jackson
(Reuters) - Father Scott Holmer sat on a chair in his church's parking lot in Bowie, Maryland on Friday, administering confession to worshippers car by car, at times leaning forward as he struggled to hear them from the six-feet distance imposed by social distancing rules.
After the Catholic church of St. Edward the Confessor had to close its doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, Holmer said he got the idea of offering drive-through confessions after learning about South Korea's drive-through testing.
"Then I grabbed some cones, the sign and the chair, put them out in the parking lot and just sat there," he told Reuters. Few cars stopped by earlier this week, but things changed after a video of the drive-through confessions went viral.
"Last night I just lost count," Holmer said on Friday. "We went for about an hour, just hearing confessions coming through the line." If it rains, confession is cancelled, the church's website said.
Drive-throughs, drive-ins and similar initiatives are popping up across the United States in an attempt to fill the void left by shuttered businesses, churches and other gathering places as U.S. officials ordered strict restrictions to help contain the spread of coronavirus.
In Great Barrington, Massachusetts a library has transformed its parking lot into a makeshift drive-in where patrons can pick up books after placing their order online.
Customers still have to get out of their vehicle to collect the books, but gloved staffers sanitize all items before placing them on carts just outside the building, said Amanda DeGiorgis, director of Great Barrington Libraries.
The response so far has been "amazing," she said. "People have called already, they're so happy to have access to the books."
Massachusetts has not yet told non-essential businesses to limit in-office personnel but has prohibited gatherings of more than 25 people and on-premises consumption of food or drink at bars and restaurants, among other measures.
New York, California and Illinois imposed tough new restrictions this week, limiting the activity of tens of million people and ordering all non-essential workers to stay at home.
More than 220 people have died in the United States and over 14,100 cases had been confirmed by Friday afternoon, the surge in cases reflecting an increase in testing. Health experts believe the actual number of cases to be far higher.
In Las Vegas, gentlemen's club "Little Darlings" was not only staying open but was planning this weekend to launch drive-through peep shows that customers can watch from their vehicles.
"As silly as it sounds, the world can't stop turning for a cold so we have to come up with something to cater to those guests who are a little more sensitive to the issues," Ryan Carlson, the club's director of operations, said in a phone interview.
He said "Little Darlings" was the only adult club still open in Las Vegas, but it was not immediately clear if the business would be able to keep operating after Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said on Twitter on Friday he had issued an emergency declaration directing all non-essential businesses to close.
The club was implementing CDC guidelines with staffers washing their hands every 30 minutes, placing seats and booths at least six feet apart, providing touchless hand sanitizer dispensers for guests and conducting three rounds of deep sanitation every day, Carlson said.
"At the end of the day, the government is not going to provide a bailout to adult entertainment businesses or their workers," he said. "So our people have to be able to provide for their families."
(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Katharine Jackson; Editing by Daniel Wallis)