As promised, the state of California issued reopening guidelines for houses of worship on Monday along with guidelines for in-store retail, drive-in movie theaters and restaurants, and libraries. Reopening is subject to county approval, and counties may decide to add their own additional restrictions.
Most of the guidelines are what you’d expect, pertaining to physical distancing, wearing cloth facial coverings, and increased hand washing, cleaning, and sanitization.
For Houses of Worship
We’ve already seen some churches getting pretty creative with how they conduct their activities during COVID-19, including this priest who used a squirt gun full of holy water to baptize a baby.
Water guns are not a part of the state’s guidelines, but for at least these first 21 days after county approval, houses of worship must reduce their capacity to 25% or 100 people, whichever is lower. After those 21 days are up, the California Department of Public Health will assess results with county departments.
Larger organizations may consider holding services more frequently to allow their congregations to still meet, but in smaller groups. If possible, organizations should consider holding meetings and services outdoors or over livestream.
While in a place of worship, households should remain at least six feet apart, perhaps by rearranging seating, marking pews, or asking visitors to sit in alternate rows.
Facial coverings for congregants are “strongly recommended.” (Depending on the county’s guidelines, they may be required.) Some other considerations include limiting singing or reciting in groups so as to reduce the droplets exhaled into the air. If these activities are crucial to a service, guests should consider putting more than six feet between one another.
If the singing guideline seems strange, health officials have said that singing and loud talking may be riskier activities for spreading respiratory droplets. In Washington state, over 52 members of a church choir contracted coronavirus after attending rehearsal, two of whom died.
You can read the complete guidelines here.
Retail, Drive-Ins, and Libraries
The state also has guidelines for in-store retail, drive-in movies and restaurants, and libraries. These are also subject to county approval.
Guidelines in stores include physical distancing, wearing facial coverings, implementing physical barriers such as Plexiglass walls between cashiers and customers, and cutting store occupancy in half. Customers waiting to go in should line up outside six feet apart.
At drive-in restaurants and movie theaters, cars should park six feet apart and households should remain in their cars when not using the restroom or picking up concessions.
Additional guidelines were offered for pickup at libraries. Participants can place a hold on their desired items in advance, then pick them up outside.
You can read the complete guidelines for retail, drive-ins, and libraries here.
Over 40 counties have been approved to move further ahead, including resuming dine-service at restaurants. Los Angeles County is not among them, currently citing the highest numbers of COVID-19 across the state. However, Riverside, Ventura, and Orange counties have all been approved to push ahead in Stage 2.