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State Releases Guidelines for Reopening Places of Worship, Retail Stores — Stricter Counties Not Included

Places of worship and in-store retail are now permitted in most California counties, except for stricter areas like the Bay Area counties.

For in-store retail shopping to resume and places of worship to reopen for religious services, modifications are required. Also, reopening is subject to approval by county public health departments, all retail stores can reopen for in-store shopping under previously issued guidelines.

Under the new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25 percent of a building’s capacity — or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower — upon approval by the county department of public health.

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While the vast majority of large gatherings remain prohibited under California’s stay-at-home order, the Department of Public Health has released guidelines for in-person protests and events designed for political expression. The guidance limits attendance to 25 percent of an area’s maximum occupancy — or up to 100 attendees.

“Together, our actions have helped bend the curve and reduce infections in our state,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health. “As sectors continue to open with changes that aim to lower risk, remember that COVID-19 is still present in our communities. 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.”

The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages organizations to continue online services and activities, including to protect individuals who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions. However, in Bay Area counties, gatherings of any size are still prohibited.

To reopen for religious services and funerals, places of worship must:

  • Establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.
  • Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19, including how to prevent it from spreading and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.
  • Implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Set physical distancing guidelines.
  • Recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings, and screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.
  • Set parameters around or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For this reason, congregants engaging in singing, particularly in the choir, and group recitation should wear face coverings at all times and when possible, these activities should be conducted outside with greater than 6-foot distancing.

The existing guidance for retailers, previously only allowed for counties approved to advance in the reopening process, now applies statewide. Retail can now open for in-store shopping statewide. The guidelines help reduce the risk for workers and customers.

Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops. In the Bay Area counties, only curbside pickup is currently allowed.

In 21 days from this announcement, the Department of Public Health, in consultation with local departments of public health, will review and assess the impact of the religious service guidelines and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities. This 21-day interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen in addition to a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.

More information about the state’s COVID-19 guidance is on the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance web page.

More information about reopening California and what individuals can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) in California.

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