Last Monday, California state officials released fresh guidelines for religious orders to follow, when holding in-person worship in churches, mosques and synagogues. The guidelines signify the re-opening of places of worship after several weeks of suspension of opening due to the COVID-19 crisis.
First off, the guidelines state that the number of worshippers must be limited to 25% of the building’s capacity for attendees. Still, for buildings with huge capacity, the maximum number is capped at 100 worshippers only, even if the equivalent 25% of the building’s capacity is higher .
The place of worship must first be cleaned and disinfected, while staff in charge should wear clean gloves when arranging the disinfected areas.
Moreover, every person entering the building including church staff, should wear a face mask, be screened for symptoms, as well as have their temperature taken.
Safe Distancing Measures
Physical distancing must still be maintained at a distance of 6 feet between congregants including religious staff. Visible markings must be in place to clearly indicate the seating positions, arranged in alternate rows.
However, families attending as a group are allowed to sit next to each other but only if the family member lives in the same household. Throughout the holding of a religious ceremony, children are to remain seated with their family.
Activities While Inside the Building
Church staff and congregants should be discouraged from hugging, shaking hands or carrying out any form of greeting that involves physical contact, and at the same time breaking safe-distancing measures.
When giving communion, state officials recommend modifying the officiating priest or minister’s traditional practice of placing the “sacramental bread” on the tongue of the worshipper; as well as drinking of “sacramental wine“ from a single cup. The new practice being recommended is to place pre-packed communion items in pews.
Where serving of food and beverages has been practiced prior to the global health crisis, the guidelines call for cessation of such practice to avoid crowding as well as cross contamination. If the serving of food and beverage is a necessity, the guidelines recommend serving them pre-packed in disposable containers. Drinking fountains or water dispensers should be removed, or at the least be turned off, to prevent congregants from accessing them.
The state guidelines suggest limiting the hours spent by congregants inside the building. The recommendation also includes suspending in-person choir practices, and as much as possible, limiting the number of choir members who will sing during mass or service to allow safe-distancing.
Guidelines Include Orders When Holding Wakes, Funeral or Religious Rites
The guidelines state that the same orders and recommendations must be practiced and observed when holding wakes or funerals to honor a deceased member, particularly in limiting the number people and in observing safe distancing. To those whose religious practice of honoring the dead includes shrouding or washing of the body, the state recommends the wearing of protective gears in case the deceased is suspected to have died from COVID-19,