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25% occupancy, no collection plates among new guidelines handed down to resume in-person church service

Gov. Newsom and state health officials released new guidelines to churches and other places of worship to resume in-person religious services & cultural ceremonies.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In-person church services in California could be back sooner than we thought, as Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials announced new guidelines to resume those services as well as other cultural ceremonies.

The California Department of Public Health released a framework Monday for county health officials to permit houses of worship to reopen. Some highlights of the state’s guidelines include limiting in-person attendance to 25% of normal occupancy or no more than 100 worshippers, whichever is lower; screenings and temperatures checks for church staff and congregants; discontinued use of collection plates, prayer books, hymnals, and other shared-use objects; and shortened services to limit the time spent in the vicinity of others.

The guidelines also mention a strong recommendation, but do not require, the wearing of face masks when in the vicinity of others.

Tap here to read the full list of the state’s guidelines and recommendations.

Monday's announcement did not set a date for churches to resume in-person services. In fact, the guidance encourages churches to continue offering remote services for those worshippers who are vulnerable to coronavirus.

Some faith leaders in our area say their communities are thrilled about reopening and will make sure to gather responsibly, even if it means doing it outdoors. "That to me says, as a spiritual family, we need to stay outside for awhile. it's the best way to avoid just one infection," pastor of New Day Community Church Bill Yates said. 

Most churches have been limited to online and remote services since March, when Gov. Newsom's stay-at-home order took effect to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Newsom has been relaxing those restrictions for restaurantss and other businesses. Several thousand churches had vowed to defy Newsom's order on May 31, which is Pentacost Sunday, a major holiday for many Christians. 

Most congregations in the Sacramento area have been holding online services for the last two months. Some local church leaders told ABC10 they aren't going to rush into re-opening and will follow guidelines approved by county health leaders. 

“In this politically-divided atmosphere, we can always find common ground,”  Jeremy White, Pastor of Valley Church Vacaville said. “If teenage employees at Walmart can enforce the proper protocols, certainly church leaders can."

Meanwhile, according to Mendocino County public health officials, six more people who participated in a Mother’s Day service at Assembly of God Church in Redwood Valley were infected, making the outbreak responsible for a third of local infections. Health officials in Butte County say two of 180 people who attended a Mother’s Day church service in Oroville also tested positive.

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Read more about California's roadmap for reopening on ABC10


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