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California Houses Of Worship, In-Store Retailers Can Reopen

Rev. Nicolás Sánchez is seen on his iPhone used to livestream Easter Vigil Mass at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in North Hollywood, Calif., which was closed under the state's coronavirus lockdown order.
Damian Dovarganes
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

California churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship can reopen, the California Department of Public Health announced on Monday. Additionally, in-store retailers are allowed to resume business throughout the state.

The changes are part of Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest round of modifications to the state's stay-at-home order that is intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The new guidelines for "places of worship and providers of religious services and cultural ceremonies" stipulate religious centers must limit attendance to 100 people or 25% of the building's capacity, whichever is lower.

The guidelines recommend against passing collection plates and baskets or sharing other communal religious objects and urge worshippers to refrain from singing or performing group recitations because of the "increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets."

The state also requires religious leaders to ensure more than 6 feet of physical distancing among congregants.

"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," state the California Department of Public Health guidelines.

Reopening must be approved by each county's public health department before going into effect. Additionally, county officials can add their own rules and restrictions. The state will reevaluate the guidelines after 21 days.

Worship services were temporarily halted and nonessential retail stores have been closed throughout most of the state since March 19 under Newsom's initial order, though some rural counties received permission to begin partial reopening earlier this month.

Now, the California Department of Public Health has cleared the way for stores across the state to begin making sales again. The state's retail guidelines do not require but "strongly" recommend employee screenings, face coverings and social distancing.

On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Newsom's order banning in-person religious services in a challenge brought by South Bay Pentecostal Church. The church filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on Sunday.

President Trump has called on places of worship to reopen and has said he will "override" governors who refuse to do so, though it's not clear he has such authority.

Some of California's largest counties, including Los Angeles and several in the San Francisco Bay Area, have yet to approve the reopening of either worship services or in-store retail.

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.