Churches can slowly start to reopen this weekend operating under strict state guidelines announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Attendance up to 25% of a building’s capacity – or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower, will be allowed upon approval by the county public health department. Newsom’s guidance is welcome news for smaller churches but creates logistical issues for others.
“It’s going to look just maybe a little bit different than it did before, pre-COVID-19,” says Pastor Kevin Foster of LifeBridge Community Church in northwest Fresno. His church will reopen on Sunday with two separate services.
Check-in Ahead of Time Online
“Reserve your seat at lifebridgetickets.eventbrite.com!” reads a post on LifeBridge’s website.
“A person can RSVP in advance for the church service that they would like to attend,” says Foster. “It’s kind of like signing up for a seat in advance in a movie theater. You actually get to choose your own seats where you want to sit in the sanctuary.”
Instead of being greeted by a handshake at Foster’s church, you’ll be greeted with a warm smile and a temperature check.
“A person’s temperature will be checked on the way in,” says Foster. “They’ll be (asked) a few questions (to see if) they’ve exhibited any signs of COVID-19 or have had a fever or cough n the past 14 days.”
A greeter will take the person or family to their assigned seats. Families can sit together.
The sanctuary will have seats spaced to provide adequate social distancing of 6 feet.
To reopen for religious services and funerals, places of worship must:
- Establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.
- Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19, including how to prevent it from spreading and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.
- Implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
- Set physical distancing guidelines.
- Recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings, and screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.
- Set parameters around or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For this reason, congregants engaging in singing, particularly in the choir, and group recitation should wear face coverings at all times and when possible, these activities should be conducted outside with greater than 6-foot distancing.