California releases guidelines for churches, synagogues, mosques to open for in-person worship

State officials released new guidelines on Monday for churches and other places of worship to open after weeks of being closed.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California state officials released new guidelines on Monday for churches and other places of worship to open after weeks of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidelines for churches, mosques, and synagogues were broken down into sections about how to resume modified in-person services.

California health officials say places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.

The state says these places of worship should implement physical distancing of at least 6 feet between congregants and the staff with visible markings or possibly limiting seating to alternate rows.

Family members who live within the same household are allowed to sit next to one another. Health officials say children should remain with their families for the entirety of the service.

Staff members and congregants should be screened for symptoms and have their temperatures checked before entering the building. People are strongly recommended to wear face masks.

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The new guidelines address communion and other similar practices, saying places of worship should try to modify the practices however possible (for example, avoiding the use of a common cup, receiving communion in the hand instead of the tongue, and providing pre-packed communion items on pews).

State health officials also discourage staff and visitors from shaking hands, hugging or other greetings that break social distancing practices.

The guidelines suggest these places limit the time their congregations are in the building. State health officials say places of worship should consider having additional services available to reduce the number of people attending at a time or implementing a reservation system.

The order calls for places of worship to stop offering self-service food and drinks and to refrain from holding potlucks or other gatherings that could encourage cross-contamination.

If food and drinks are served, the state asks that they are served in disposable containers when possible. Public water fountains should be turned off to deter people from using them.

The order also asks congregations to consider suspending group recitations, like choir practices and performances, where there's an increased risk of transmission. To cope with this, the state says places of worship can modify their practices by limiting the number of people singing or holding them outside to encourage social distancing if the practices can't be suspended.

Places of worship are recommended to provide protective equipment, like face masks and gloves, to their volunteers and employees to use.

Health officials say staff members should disinfect areas that are highly populated and items that are frequently shared.

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The state's guidelines ask that places of worship consider limiting the number of people allowed at funeral, wakes and other similar practices and remind attendees to keep following social distancing guidelines.

The order also asks places of worship take caution if honoring someone who died from COVID-19; for example, if washing or shrouding a body is an important religious practice, the state asks exposure to the body be reduced as much as possible and safety gear be worn.

Places of worship will need to comply with any local guidelines regarding gathering sizes and travel, according to the updated guidelines.

To read the full list of guidelines, click here.

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