Limited to 25% of capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees whichever is lower; requires county health officer’s approval
In response to pressure from President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Barr, last week, and under pressure from a variety of churches and religious groups suing the state, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued guidelines, today, Monday, May 25, 2020, for reopening places of worship, providers of religious services and cultural ceremonies. https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf
However, the guidelines require approval of the county health officer but will have little or no benefit for most churches, as they limit attendance to just 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees maximum whichever is less.
The guidelines were issued “to support a safe, clean environment for employees, interns and trainees, volunteers, scholars, and all other types of workers (referred to collectively as “staff”) as well as congregants, worshippers, visitors, etc. (referred to collectively as “visitors” or ‘congregants’).
This guidance does not obligate places of worship to resume in-person activity. Further, it is strongly recommended that places of worship continue to facilitate remote services and other related activities for those who are vulnerable to COVID19 including older adults and those with co-morbidities. Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations. In particular, activities such as singing, and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.
Places of worship must therefore limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21-days of a county public health department’s approval of religious services and cultural ceremonies activities at places of worship within their jurisdictions.
Upon 21-days, the California Department of Public Health, in consultation with county Departments of Public Health, will review and assess the impact of these imposed limits on public health and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities in places of worship.”
Among other things, the guidelines also require places of worship to “Perform thorough cleaning of high traffic areas such as lobbies, halls, chapels, meeting rooms, offices, libraries, and study areas and areas of ingress and egress including stairways, stairwells, handrails, and elevator controls. Frequently disinfect commonly used surfaces including doorknobs, toilets, handwashing facilities, pulpits and podiums, donation boxes or plates, altars, and pews and seating areas.”
Efforts were made to the county health spokesperson asking for comment from County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano on the guidelines and how soon places of worship in Contra Costa can expect to reopen. Please check back later for updates to this report.