WACO, TX — The 185th Grand Communications of the Grand Lodge of Texas will take place over a three-day event in Waco beginning Thursday.
Held in Waco the past 100 years, thousands of Masons will gather to discuss issues from the past year. This year, the event will continue but with only 1,000 in attendance.
On Tuesday, McLennan County hit record breaking COVID-19 case numbers with 467 new diagnoses.
Sam Cryan a Mason since 1972 and previous master of the James H. Lockwood Lodge, says they will be taking all social distancing and mask protocols.
"It's extremely important all masks will be worn," he said.
Cryan says with the pandemic, some meetings will be online. With many Masons older in age, officials say this was the best option.
"That's the reason why we're doing Zoom, for most of our meetings will be on Zoom," Cryan said.
Kelly Craine with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District says since the meetings are taking place on private property, they did not have to get a city permit for the three-day event. However, she says it's critical we all follow guidelines.
"The virus is widespread right now. We are seeing our hospitals over-taxed. We even have a temporary morgue truck that is still in use," Craine said.
She has a warning for anyone who might be planning gatherings, big or small.
"When you go outside of your home, you are at risk of coming into contact with someone who already has the virus. We just have so many right now. Our cases are so high," Craine said.
This more than a centuries tradition was not about to be stopped because of a pandemic. Cryan says he hopes those visiting will help local businesses.
"It helps our economy, and we get diverse opinions in regard to the Masonic work," he said.
Meetings will be held in their auditorium at the Grand Lodge of Texas in downtown Waco. The auditorium has a capacity of 3,500 people. With 1,000 people expected to be in attendance, the Masons will be under the 50% occupancy mandate ordered by the governor.