Churches in Los Angeles County will be allowed to re-open for indoor services for the first time in five months under modified Covid-19 safety guidelines announced Saturday.
The change in protocol from the county’s department of public health now allows for both indoor and outdoor “faith-based services” provided they follow social distancing and face covering requirements, essentially ending the ban on indoor religious gatherings in place since July 2020.
The county said it was updating its guidelines to “align with recent Supreme Court rulings for places of worship,” presumably the Court’s 5-4 ruling last month lifting restrictions on houses of worship in parts of Brooklyn imposed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and several similar decisions that have followed.
The health officer’s modified order does not limit attendance to a certain number or percentage of people, but rather mandates that religious worship attendance “not exceed the number of people who can be accommodated while maintaining a physical distance of six feet between separate households.”
The updated protocols are actually less restrictive than those required for churches during the few weeks that LA County allowed public indoor services in the early summer. Those restrictions capped indoor attendance at 100 people or 25% of a place of worship’s capacity, whichever was less.
“We are grateful that the county has recognized the importance of worship services and the efforts to ensure that our parishioners can worship safely at our parishes. We are currently evaluating the update and will provide additional guidance in the coming days,” said the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in a Dec. 20 statement in response to the announcement.
Despite the new allowance, health department stressed that it “strongly recommends” that places of worship continue outdoor services amid the county’s “unprecedented surge of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths” this month.
“Every effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to congregants and to the entire community is critical,” read the modified order Dec. 19.
The announcement came as Los Angeles County saw its highest Covid-19 case, hospitalization and death numbers in December since the pandemic began in early 2020.
The above comes from a Dec. 21 story in Angelus News.