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San Diego County allows churches to reopen Wednesday

church pew seat
Posted at 2:32 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 23:45:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego County leaders announced Tuesday that churches will be allowed to reopen Wednesday if they have a plan posted and follow newly-released state guidelines.

The county said San Diego County's Public Health Officer does not have to approve the plans.

"We know that practicing and sharing your faith is important, but we want to make sure we keep everyone safe," said Greg Cox, San Diego County Supervisor.

The news follows a state announcement Monday that churches will be allowed to reopen with certain restrictions.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom releases updated guidelines for reopening of California churches

Some of the guidelines include limiting attendance to 25 percent of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower, and arranging for social distancing.

Arthur Hodges, the senior pastor at South Bay United Pentecostal Church, is still in a legal battle with the state over restrictions. He said the state's stay-at-home order and restrictions violate religious right and discriminate against houses of worship.

"This church behind me seats over 600 people," said Hodges. "I could probably come back with a 30 to 50 percent capacity."

After being denied in federal court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Hodges is taking his fight to the Supreme Court, for one main reason.

"We've got to prevent this from happening in the future," he said. "We need those limits established now that government is not encroaching on our religious rights."

His church plans to resume in-person service on Sunday.

"We are not putting any pressure on anyone to come to church until they want to come, ready to come, comfortable in coming," he explained.

Churches will be allowed to reopen beginning midnight Wednesday, according to the county.

See some of the other restrictions below:

  • Shorten services to limit the length of time congregants/visitors spend at facilities whenever possible. This could include limiting speeches, asking congregants/visitors to put on garments at home before arrival, etc.
  • Close places of worship for visitation outside of scheduled services, meetings, etc., whenever possible.
  • Discontinue large gatherings that encourage congregants/visitors to travel and break physical distances during activities, such as concerts, large holiday and life event celebrations and remembrances.
  • Close children's play areas and discontinue activities and services for children where physical distancing of at least 6 feet cannot be maintained.
  • Prop or hold doors open during peak periods when congregants/visitors are entering and exiting facilities, if possible and in accordance with security and safety protocols.
  • Close or restrict common areas, such as break rooms, kitchenettes, foyers, etc. where people are likely to congregate and interact.
  • Reconfigure podiums and speaker areas, office spaces, meeting rooms, conference rooms, etc., to allow for at least 6 feet between people.
  • Face coverings are strongly recommended at all times for congregants/visitors and staff.
  • Establish directional hallways and passageways for foot traffic, if possible, and designate separate routes for entry and exit into meeting rooms, offices, etc., to help maintain physical distancing and lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.
  • Close self-service item selection such as pamphlet displays and bookshelves and provide these items to congregants/visitors individually as necessary.
  • Consider limiting the number of people that use the restroom at one time to allow for physical distancing.
  • Discourage staff, congregants, visitors, etc., from engaging in handshakes, hugs, and similar greetings that break physical distance.
  • Reconfigure parking lots to limit congregation points and ensure proper separation (e.g., closing every other space).
  • Discontinue offering self-service food and beverages. Do not hold potlucks or similar family-style eating and drinking events that increase the risk of cross contamination.
  • Strongly consider discontinuing singing, group recitation, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets.
  • Consider modifying practices that are specific to particular faith traditions that might encourage the spread of COVID-19. Examples are discontinuing kissing of ritual objects, allowing rites to be performed by fewer people, avoiding the use of a common cup, offering communion in the hand instead of on the tongue, providing pre-packed communion items on chairs prior to service, etc.