COVID-19 Special Coverage
California issues guidance for reopening places of worship
jaefrench / Pixabay
California issues guidance for reopening places of worship

The California Department of Public Health, along with the State Department of Industrial Relations, released industry guidance on Monday for the reopening of places of worship and providers of religious services and cultural ceremonies.

The 13-page document outlines protections that places of worship should implement if they choose to resume in-person activity. Attendance at places of worship is limited for the first 21 days of reopening to the lower of 100 people or 25 percent of the building capacity. After 21 days, the state and local departments of public health will assess the impact of attendance limits and provide further direction. However, the guidance does not apply to places involved with food preparation and service, delivery of items to those in need, childcare and daycare services, school and educational activities, in-home caregiving, counseling, office work, and other activities that places and organizations of worship may provide.

Measures include the establishment of a written workplace specific plan to be posted at every location. The plan should include the identification of local resources to address potential outbreaks through response measures, as well as regular evaluation of the plan to ensure any deficiencies are promptly corrected.

In addition to the workplace specific plan, places of worship should train all employees and volunteers on appropriate methods of prevention, self-screening, frequent hand washing, proper use of personal protective equipment, the importance of physical distancing both at work and off work time, and the performance of cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

Additionally, places of worship should discontinue offering self-service food and beverages and not hold pot-luck or similar family-style eating and drinking events. Singing, group recitation, and other similar practices are strongly discouraged where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets. Places of worship should also consider discontinuing or modifying practices specific to particular faith traditions that might encourage the spread of COVID-19. Examples of modifications include discontinuing the kissing of ritual objects, allowing rites to be performed by fewer people, avoiding the use of a common cup, offering communion in the hand or by pre-packaged items, etc., in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Special considerations for funerals involve reduced visitor capacity, staggering visitation times, and allowing for the cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and high traffic areas. Additionally, modifications to funeral practices may be considered for individuals who died from COVID-19. Proposed modifications involve ways that would ensure the protection of funeral home staff and families to reduce exposure to contagions as much as possible.