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California Issues Guidelines for Reopening Places of Worship

California state officials released new guidelines on May 25 for reopening churches and other places..

California state officials released new guidelines on May 25 for reopening churches and other places of worship, days after President Donald Trump threatened to “override the governors,” of any states where in-person services are still banned.

The guidelines, released by the states Department of Public Health, call for churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious groups to limit attendance to 25 percent of the buildings capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of a county public health departments approval of religious services and cultural ceremonial activities at places of worship within their jurisdictions.

They also ask that churches frequently sanitize pews, microphones, and other high-traffic areas in sanctuaries and discourage sharing items used in worship and services, such as prayer books, cushions, and prayer rugs whenever possible.

The state also says these places of worship should implement physical distancing of at least 6 feet between staff and congregants, while members of the same household may be seated together but should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other households.

Congregants or visitors should also be screened for temperature and symptoms upon arrival to places of worship and asked to use hand sanitizer and to wear face coverings, according to the guidelines, and places of worship should take “reasonable measures,” including posting signage in strategic and highly-visible locations, to remind visitors that they should use face coverings and practice physical distancing whenever possible. Babies and children under age 2 should not wear face coverings, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

The guidance states that places of worship should continue to provide services through alternative methods such as via live streaming whenever possible and to shorten those services that do take place in person, and try to conduct them outdoors whenever possible.

Other recommendations include halting food and drink services within places of worship, discouraging staff and visitors from shaking hands or hugging, and suspending group recitations, like choir practices and performances, where theres an increased risk of transmission, and closing or restricting common areas such as break rooms, kitchenettes, and foyers.

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