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California to allow places of worship to reopen with up to 100 people

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  • California released new state guidelines on Monday allowing places of worship to reopen with limited capacity. 
  • According to the guidelines, places of worship must adhere to new rules put in place, which include implementing a COVID-19 prevention plan, heightening cleaning protocols, and enforcing social distancing.
  • California’s Department of Public Health said it would revisit these guidelines in 21 days and modify them as necessary. 
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California announced on Monday that it would allow places of worship to reopen with limited capacity as it slowly begins to lift its lockdown measures put in place to stop the coronavirus spread. 

Under new state guidelines released on Monday, the California Department of Public Health said that places of worship could hold religious services and funeral as long as attendance is limited to 25% of a building’s capacity, or up to 100 attendees, depending on which is lower. 

“Together, our actions have helped bend the curve and reduce infections in our state,” Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health, said in the announcement. “As more of us may be leaving our homes, keeping physical distance, wearing face coverings in public, and washing your hands frequently are more important than ever to help protect yourself and those around you.”

According to the guidelines, places of worship must adhere to new rules put in place, which include implementing a COVID-19 prevention plan, heightening cleaning protocols, and enforcing social distancing.

The department said it would revisit these guidelines in 21 days and modify them as necessary. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19, which continues to be in place. The state has begun to allow certain industries to slowly reopen under new guidelines issued earlier this month.

On May 8, the state’s stay-at-home order was modified as part of a phased reopening plan. Essential services, like gas stations and grocery stores, as well as offices, limited services, and outdoor museums, have also been allowed to reopen.

The state has outlined six key indicators that will be considered before the state’s order will be modified again to allow additional activity. 

As of Monday, California has recorded over 96,000 coronavirus cases and more than 3,700 deaths. 

Despite the lifting of restrictions on places of worship, a group of California pastors has said that the new guidelines are “not acceptable” and discriminate against places of worship. 

“While many churches will have no problem complying with the 100 person limit, some of our clients have churches that seat 2,500 people and more,” an attorney representing California pastors said in a statement. “Limiting places of worship to 100 people is arbitrary, unreasonable, and unconstitutional.” 

The attorney added that his clients would “continue to make plans to hold services on May 31, 2020 (the Christian holiday of Pentecost) and many will not limit themselves to 100 persons.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidelines to religious organizations on safely reopening, including enhancing hygiene practices, encouraging the use of face coverings, and promoting social distancing.

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