California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday churches can reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News reported, just days after President Donald Trump declared houses of worship “very important essential places of faith.”
What are the details?
Newsom’s guidelines say places of worship can reopen if county health officials give their approval and as long as they limit attendance to 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever is less, Fox News said.
They also must set parameters for physical distancing, singing, and recitations, as well as encourage all to wear face masks and establish new cleaning and disinfection protocols, the cable network said.
The governor’s guidelines also recommend possibly seating congregants in alternating rows as well as having family members in the same household sit together while others spread out, Fox News said.
In addition, houses of worship are urged to modify shared communion, possibly by avoiding common cup use, receiving communion upon the hand instead of the tongue, and providing pre-packaged communion items in pews, the network said.
According to the Associated Press, in-person religious services are part of phase three of Newsom’s reopening plan, which he had said could be weeks away.
The Department of Health will examine the coronavirus impact of reopening houses of worship in three weeks, Fox News said, as it will allow churches one week to prepare and reopen and 14 days for the COVID-19 incubation period.
Trump: ‘If they don’t do it, I will override the governors’
Trump said Friday churches and other places of worship are essential services under federal guidelines, and governors should let them reopen immediately.
“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now,” the president said. “For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
Trump added, “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out houses of worship. That’s not right.”
Federal appeals court backed Newsom’s ban
Also on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Newsom’s ban on in-person church services after a California church argued that his lockdown orders violated First Amendment rights.
Last week, over 1,200 California pastors said they would defy Newsom’s shelter-in-place executive order and resume in-person church services.
In addition, Newsom also is allowing retailers to reopen for in-store shopping statewide if OK’d by county health officials, Fox News said, adding that personal services such as salons and barbershops still aren’t allowed to reopen.
Gov. Newsom releases updated guidelines for reopening of California churches