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California Churches Can Open Sooner Than Expected

Gov. Gavin Newsom had initially said reopening religious gatherings could be weeks away
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 26, 2020 12:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – Religious services in California will look much different under rules unveiled Monday that limit attendance to 100 people and recommend worshippers wear masks, limit singing, and refrain from shaking hands or hugging. The state released guidance under which county health departments can approve the reopening of churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship, the AP reports. They have been closed since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It’s not immediately known how soon in-person services will resume. Counties that are having success controlling the virus are likely to move quickly. Others with outbreaks—such as Los Angeles County, which has about 60% of California’s roughly 3,800 deaths—may choose to delay.

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The guidelines ask worshippers to wear masks, avoid sharing prayer books or prayer rugs, and skip the collection plate; they also ask that temperatures be taken. They say to avoid large gatherings for holidays, weddings, and funerals, and warn that activities such as singing or group recitation "negate” the benefits of social distancing. The guidelines say even with physical distancing, in-person worship carries a higher risk of transmitting the virus and increasing the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths and recommend houses of worship shorten services. Each county will have to adopt rules for services to resume within their jurisdictions and then the guidelines will be reviewed by state health officials after 21 days. The guidelines include limiting gatherings to 25% of building capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower. (Some places of worship around the country opened over the weekend after the president declared them essential.)

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