California churches can reopen at 25 percent or less capacity

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that churches and other places of worship can reopen, but they must follow state guidelines, including limiting attendance at services.

The state’s new guidelines require places of worship to limit attendance to the lesser amount of two amounts: 100 attendees or 25 percent building capacity. The guidelines suggest implementing a reservation system to limit the number of congregants attending services.

California’s new church attendance rule will remain in effect for the first 21 days of a county public health department’s approval of religious services. Following the 21-day period, health officials will review the impact of the phasing in of services and provide further direction.

According to the new guidelines, churches and other places of worship must post signage in strategic and highly-visible locations reminding congregants they should wear face coverings and practice physical distancing whenever possible.  Places of worship should also screen congregants for temperature and/or symptoms upon arrival and ask them to wear face coverings and use hand sanitizer. 

When required by employer rules or other guidelines, places of worship must provide face coverings.

Gavin Newsom

Despite allowing churches to reopen, the state is strongly recommending places of worship continue to facilitate remote services. Also, the guidelines call for closing places of worship for visitation outside of scheduled services and meeting times, as well as whenever possible. 

Furthermore, the guidelines call for places of worship to discourage the sharing of prayer books and other items used during services, such as cushions and prayer rugs. Whenever possible, places of worship should provide single-use or digital prayer items or ask congregants to bring their own. When prayer items are shared, they should be disinfected in between uses.

Last week, President Donald Trump stated houses of worship are “essential” and called for governors to reopen them immediately. Trump said he would override governors who do not allow houses of worship to reopen. 

“In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump said.