Places of worship and in-store retail shopping can now reopen statewide, with limitations, the California Department of Public Health announced on Monday.
Under new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building's capacity — or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower.
Retail stores can also reopen for in-store shopping. Both require approval by the county department of public health.
Despite the state's relaxation of public health restrictions, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties continue to operate under stricter stay-at-home orders than the state, and residents of these counties must abide by the local regulations.
The state's updated stay-at-home order continues to prohibit the majority of large gatherings, but the state public health department has issued guidelines for in-person protests and events related to political expression. The guidance limits attendance to 25% of an area's maximum occupancy or up to 100 attendees.
“Together, our actions have helped bend the curve and reduce infections in our state,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, state public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health. "As sectors continue to open with changes that aim to lower risk, remember that COVID-19 is still present in our communities. As more of us may be leaving our homes, keeping physical distance, wearing face coverings in public, and washing your hands frequently are more important than ever to help protect yourself and those around you."
The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages institutions to continue online services and activities to protect those who are most at risk for more severe cases of COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.
Organizations wanting to reopen for services and funerals must develop a COVID-19 prevention plan for each location; train staff and evaluate for compliance; implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols; set physical distancing guidelines; recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings; screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts; and set parameters 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 six-foot distancing," the health department noted.
New guidance for retailers, which allows in-store shopping and follows previously issues rules for certain counties that advanced their reopenings, now applies statewide. The guidelines require social distancing and health protocols to help reduce the risk for workers and customers. Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops.
Also under the updated state order, libraries can now offer curbside pickup of materials.
The public health department and local health departments will review and assess the impact of the religious services guidelines in 21 days and will provide further direction for phasing in additional activities. The interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen and to assess a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.
Find comprehensive coverage of the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.