SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The County today announced the reopening of places of worship with new State-specified guidelines.
Under the new State guidance, issued this morning, places of worship can hold religious services, including funerals, if attendance is limited to 25 percent of a building’s capacity, but no more than 100 attendees.
“This is a great first step for our residents of faith who have refrained from gathering for more than two months,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “The COVID-19 virus is still very present throughout our county. With places of worship, dine-in restaurants, stores, and malls now suddenly open, it is more important than ever that we practice physical distancing, wear face coverings in public, and frequently wash our hands to protect ourselves and those around us.”
The State this morning issued new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies, https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf, that encourage organizations to continue online services and activities, especially for the protection of those who are most at risk from COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.
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.
Not adhering to all of the guidelines in their entirely could result in the spread of illness and the re-closing of places of worship.
In 21 days, the State Department of Public Health, in consultation with the County Department of Public Health, will review and assess the impact of the religious services 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.
Local information about COVID-19 can be found on the County’s COVID-19 website, http://sbcovid19.com.