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Los Angeles County change on indoor religious services could impact South Bay lawsuit

Posted at 10:46 PM, Dec 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 01:53:42-05

LOS ANGELES (KGTV) — Late Saturday, Los Angeles County changed its public health order to allow indoor religious services with modifications — something that could have implications for a South Bay church's legal battle.

Los Angeles County's Department of Public Health issued the changes following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 3 that places of worship in New York could reopen because coronavirus restrictions violated the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The high court then sent an unsigned order to California judges to reconsider Gov. Gavin Newsom's restrictions.

RELATED: Chula Vista church among churches suing over right to worship

The updated protocols require places of worship to require masks that cover the nose and mouth worn at all times on-site and that capacity doesn't exceed the number of people who can be accommodated while observing physical distance:

  • "All attendees/visitors must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose at all times when in attendance and also at any time when they could come into contact with, or when walking past others who are non-household members.
  • All attendees/visitors must observe a six-foot physical distance between themselves and others who are not members of their household. Measures have been implemented (advance registration, counting attendees at entry) to assure attendance does not exceed the number of people who can be accommodated with the required physical distancing in the indoor space.
  • Seating is reconfigured to ensure that all attendees/visitors are able to maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet between themselves and others who are not members of their household.
  • Clear pathways have been identified between parking areas and other arrival points to the service areas to minimize crowding and congregating, to allow for monitoring of occupancy and for entrance screening.
  • A staff person (or staff people if there is more than one pathway) wearing a cloth face covering is posted at the entryway but at least 6 feet from the nearest arriving or departing person to monitor use of face coverings and track occupancy of attendees/visitors.
  • If attendees/visitors must wait in line prior to being seated or at any other point during their presence at the site, markings are used to demonstrate the required 6-foot distance between individuals.
  • If applicable, aisles within the area used for indoor services are designated as oneway to support physical distancing.
  • Podiums, platforms and other speaker areas have been reconfigured to allow at least 6 feet between speakers or celebrants.
  • Staff have been instructed to maintain at least a 6-foot distance from each other in all areas of the site.
  • Virtual access is offered to visitors who wish to participate in services or events but are at high risk if exposed to COVID-19."

The ruling could have implications in San Diego County, where South Bay United Pentecostal Church has been arguing against the state's COVID-19 restrictions on worshipping indoors since May.

Senior Pastor Arthur Hodges told ABC 10News on Saturday that he's hopeful a hearing will grant the church permission to reopen indoors.

"Because [Los Angeles County] is so much worse than [San Diego] with COVID, we are hopeful our county leaders here will follow suit as LA and/or we will receive a favorable court ruling ASAP that will open San Diego," Hodges said, adding they're prepared to go above and beyond current coronavirus precautions.

According to Hodges, the Supreme Court voted down their initial lawsuit 5-4 in May.

Hodges says they are still waiting on a ruling from Friday's hearing.