State issues new guidelines on religious service gatherings

The state of California announced new guidelines Monday allowing places of worship to resume operating during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Places of worship will be required to limit service attendance to a quarter of the building’s maximum occupancy, with a hard limit of 100 attendees. All attendees and staff must have their temperature checked before entering the building.

Churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship are not obligated to resume in-person services and state officials urged them to continue virtual religious services whenever possible.

“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,” the state Department of Public Health wrote in announcing the new guidelines.

The use of high-touch items like offering plates and shared prayer books is discouraged and facilities will be required to rearrange seating to allow six feet of space between service attendees.

High-traffic areas like lobbies, chapels, halls and offices should also be cleaned frequently, according to the guidelines.

Large religious service events and gatherings like concerts, potlucks and holiday celebrations are still banned in the state’s public health and safety guidelines, according to the CDPH.

The full list of new guidelines for religious services and places of worship can be found at covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf.

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