SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The state of California released new guidelines Monday to allow for the reopening of churches and other places of worship for in-person services.
Places of worship can reopen effective immediately (given they are permitted to do so by local county guidelines) as long as they "limit attendance to 25% of a building's capacity - or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower" and follow social distancing rules.
The new guidelines include:
- Staff, volunteers and congregants are strongly recommended to wear face masks when in the vicinity of others
- Congregants should be screened for temperature and other symptoms
- Staff must be screened with temperature checks before their shifts
- Offering plates (and similar items) should not be passed around between worshippers
- The sharing of items like prayer books, cushions and prayer rugs is discouraged
- High traffic areas, like pews and lobbies, should be frequently disinfected
- Microphones, instruments and other items on pulpit and podiums should be disinfected between uses
- Consider shortening services to minimize the amount of time people are congregated together
- Places of worship should consider using disposable seat covers and dispose of them between services
- Seating and podium areas must be rearranged to allow for 6 feet of space between people
- Open doors and windows to encourage fresh air to flow inside
Places of worship are also encouraged by state guidelines to continue offering remote and online services. They should also meet outside to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 wherever possible.
The guidelines also ask places of worship to "strongly consider discontinuing singing, group recitation, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets."
Concerts, holiday events and other especially large gatherings should remain canceled for the time being.
See the full list of new rules here.
On Monday, Bay Area black preachers and activists gathered on the step of San Francisco City Hall to oppose the reopening of churches in the state.
"This aggregation of unity is together on one single truth - the African American community is down with deaths will up on life," said Rev. Amos Brown, Pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco and President of the SF branch of the NAACP.
Pastor Marty Peters from Victory Baptist Church in East Oakland said they will continue to hold virtual gatherings in hopes to decrease the amount of COVID-19 case within the African American community.
"3,000 confirmed cases in our zip code. East Oakland has been hit hard by this pandemic. Therefore, I stand in support of not opening our church doors at this time. It is not safe," Said Peters.
California has the largest number of Muslims in the country with an average 350,000 in the Bay Area.
Hatem Bazian, Chair of the Northern California Islamic Council said these guidelines will be challenging to follow but necessary to keep this community safe.
The biggest concern, is "How to deal with the prayer location? because the Muslim prayer require individuals to stand shoulder to shoulder," Bazian points to a tentative solution, "to institute for people to be at a distance of 6 feet within the mosque."
Touching the ground and using a mat is also part of the Muslim prayer, another aspect that will have to be modified.
"Some of the discussions is to create paper mat where individuals who come will get a paper mat that they will use to prostrate and dispose of it," said Bazian.
In San Francisco, Pastor Carlos Concuan with the Aliento de Vida para las naciones, he will continue drive-in services but is concerned about sending people away.
"I'm going to have people thinking okay you were teaching me for a long time that we have a God who heals but now you are sending me home because I'm sick. That's the only thing that I don't agree with 100%,"said Pastor Concuan.
Last week, President Donald Trump deemed churches and other houses of worship "essential" and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen immediately. He said if governors don't abide by his request, he will "override" them, though it's unclear what authority he has to do so.
"We look forward to churches reopening in a safe manner," Gov. Newsom said Friday.
Last week the governor announced professional sports, hair salons may also be able to resume as early as the first week of June.
"If we hold the rate of transmissions... we'll be making announcements statewide, not just with the regional variances, that would allow for retail not just to be pick-up, but in-store retail to be loosened up," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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