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Gov. Newsom: Guidelines for safely reopening California churches coming Monday

Posted at 1:32 PM, May 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-23 01:01:57-04

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is working on guidelines and safety measures for the reopening of places of worship, and those regulations are expected to be issued on Monday.

The governor’s statement comes hours after President Trump deemed churches and other places of worship across the nation “essential.” The president called on states to reopen places of worship "right now, this weekend."

Trump also said he would "override" governors who choose to keep places of worship closed.

When asked to respond to the president’s comments during his Friday press briefing, Newsom said the state's updated guidelines for church reopenings would come out by Monday.

"We've been working throughout the interfaith community ... all up and down the state, working on the differentiation, the large mega-churches versus more neighborhood-style churches and different styles of pews and sanitation protocols, synagogues versus working with other faiths. We've been working on those sectoral guidelines and we are just days away, at the latest on Monday, we will put out those guidelines," Newsom said.

The governor added, “We have been engaging with the faith community and look forward to them opening in a safe and responsible manner … We have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and need to practice faith.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released "interim guidance" on Friday for houses of worship, while continuing to warn that "gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19 during this public health emergency."

The CDC guidance includes standard recommendations such as frequent hand-washing, encouraging face coverings for staff and congregants, frequent cleaning of surfaces and promotion of social distancing through physical set-up and limited attendance.

The guidelines also recommend changes in the way houses of worship collect financial donations, limited physical contact such as shaking hands or hugging, and limiting the sharing of objects such as prayer books and cups.

More than 1,200 pastors and clergy from across California sent the governor a letter earlier this week saying they plan to resume in-person services May 31, regardless of state restrictions.

Some churches and faith leaders have also sued the state, seeking to compel the reopening of houses of worship, and the U.S. Department of Justice recently sent a letter to the state warning that restrictions on such facilities could be a violation of federal law.