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California issues virus safety rules for worshippers

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California issues virus safety rules for worshippers

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, front, leads a service last month. California says churches can resume in-person services with coronavirus precautions. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Religious services in California will look much different under rules unveiled Monday that limit attendance to 100 people and recommend worshippers wear masks, limit singing and refrain from shaking hands or hugging.

The state released guidance under which county health departments can approve the reopening of churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship. They have been closed since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

They guidelines worshippers to wear masks, avoid sharing prayer books or prayer rugs and skip the collection plate.

They also say to avoid large gatherings for holidays, weddings and funerals and warn that activities such as singing or group recitation “negate” the safety benefits of social distancing.

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The guidelines say even with physical distancing, in-person worship carries a higher risk of transmitting the virus and increasing the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths and recommend houses of worship shorten services.

Each county will have to adopt rules for services to resume within their jurisdictions and then the guidelines will be reviewed by state health officials after 21 days.

It’s not immediately known how soon in-person services will resume. Counties that are having success controlling the virus are likely to move quickly. Others with outbreaks — such as Los Angeles County, which has about 60% of California’s roughly 3,800 deaths — may choose to delay.“A county does not need the state’s permission to allow the opening of a house of worship” but each facility must first meet the […]

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