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Reopening of places of worship for religious services and cultural ceremonies

Post Date:05/28/2020

On Monday, May 25, 2020, the California Department of Public Health announced the statewide reopening of places of worship for religious services.  These organizations can reopen in Monterey County, if they meet the State of California’s criteria.

Under the new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity or up to 100 attendees, which ever is lower. 

The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages organizations to continue online services and activities to protect individuals who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.

To reopen for religious services and funerals, places of worship must:

  • Establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.
  • Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19, including how to prevent it from spreading and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.
  • Implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Set physical distancing guidelines.
  • Recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings, and screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.
  • Set parameters around or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For this reason, congregants engaging in singing, particularly in the choir, and group recitation should wear face coverings at all times and when possible, these activities should be conducted outside with greater than 6-foot distancing.

Faith-based office workspaces can reopen within the following parameters:

  • Faith-based facilities are considered “offices” only for those employed by the organization and where the facility is their regular place of work.
  • The employer should implement state guidance relating to offices before reopening the facility for employees;
  • This designation does not to permit gatherings of non-employees, such as the organization’s congregation.

Additionally, faith-based counseling can reopen within the following parameters:

  • Counselling services are permissible in-person where the service cannot reasonably be practiced remotely;
  • Counselling services should adopt state guidance on Limited Services, where applicable;
  • This designation does not permit gatherings beyond counselling to members of a single household.

In 21 days, the California Department of Public Health, in consultation with local departments of public health, will review and assess the impact of the religious services guidelines and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities. This 21-day interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen in addition to a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.

More information about reopening is available at https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/
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