Gov. Newsom releases new guidelines for places of worship to reopen

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday released requirements that would allow California churches to reopen.

But, some places of worship are choosing to stay closed for the time being to keep their congregations safe from COVID-19.

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Bishop Kenneth Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood is holding services virtually.

"Is it ideal? Of course not, but it's working and especially in light of the broader perspective of the risk and the dangers involved. I don't like the camera congregation but God has been gracious and we're doing well with that, the support is up, the involvement is up," said Ulmer.

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Ulmer has many concerns about reopening.

"The highest ethnic group infected by this is African Americans and Latinos so that's a concern. One of the problems that I have as a pastor, pastor means shepherd is to look out for the safety of the sheep. When you return and you've got limits and spacing of the congregation, that has an impact on the kind of intimacy that is the character and nature of our style of worship," said Ulmer.

Ulmer is also concerned about the safety of the seniors and children at the church.

"I understand many of my friends are going to open up this week or next week, but as for me and my house, we're gonna wait for a while. When you have to limit 25%, who gets in, and who doesn't get in?" said Ulmer.

Rabbi David Wolpe is also waiting to reopen Sinai Temple Los Angeles.  

"We are waiting for guidance from the county and when we have that, we will open cautiously and with full awareness of both the spiritual needs and the physical dangers such as they are," said Wolpe.

Wolpe said the temple has a record of what happened 100 years ago with the 1918 Pandemic.

"In 1918, we have records that the synagogue was closed for two months until the pandemic passed which gives us at least some heart that just as it grew after the pandemic, perhaps people will come rushing back now once this is over," said Wolpe.

Wolpe said when they do reopen, they will take "every precaution with distancing and face coverings."

"Waiting is difficult, but we know that patience is not just an interpersonal virtue, it's a religious one," said Wolpe.

Late last week, President Donald Trump declared that churches and places of worship are "essential," and asked the nation's governors to open them ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Under Newsom’s Four Stage Reopening Plan, churches and in-person religious services fall under the "highest risk workplaces" category, which is part of Phase 3.

Nail Salons, gyms, and barbershops are also part of the third stage.

Currently, the Golden State is in its second phase of the plan, with some counties further along than others with state approval. 


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• 1,200 California pastors to defy state's stay-at-home order on May 31

• Some churches will reopen, they say with or without Gov. Newsom’s permission

• US says California's reopening plan discriminates against churches

Under the new guidelines, places of worship must adhere to limited attendance of 25%, and no more than 100 people at a time. 

Other new guidelines include:

• Encourage staff and congregants/visitors who are sick or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or who have family members who are ill, to stay home.

• Places of worship should consider where disposable gloves use may be helpful to supplement frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer;

•Face coverings are strongly recommended when staff are in the vicinity of others. Workers and volunteers should have face coverings available and wear them when at all facilities, in offices, when making home visits as part of providing services, or in a vehicle during work-related travel with others.

•Places of worship must take reasonable measures, including posting signage in strategic and highly-visible locations, to remind congregants/visitors that they should use face coverings and practice physical distancing whenever possible.

•Discourage sharing items used in worship and services (such as prayer books, cushions, prayer rugs, etc.) whenever possible and provide single-use or digital copies or ask congregants/visitors to bring personal items instead.

•Disinfect microphones and stands, music stands, instruments, and other items on pulpits and podiums between each use.

•Wash religious garments and linens after each service or event, at the highest water setting possible.

•Discontinue passing offering plates and similar items that move between people. Use alternative giving options such as secure drop boxes that do not require opening/closing and can be cleaned and disinfected.

•Implement measures to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between workers, staff, congregants/visitors, etc.

•Close places of worship for visitation outside of scheduled services, meetings, etc., whenever possible.

•Consider reduced visitor capacity and stagger visitation times at funerals, wakes, etc.

See the full list of guidelines.