After two months closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Churches will reopen their doors in California.
The state Department of Public Health authorized temples and worship centers to resume their religious services, provided they comply with a series of sanitary measures aimed at protecting parishioners.
Under these guidelines, churches may celebrate mass, but only 25% of the total capacity will be allowed, up to a maximum of 100 people. A restriction that has not convinced some Catholic leaders.
"How am I going to open a church for six thousand people with 25% of my sheep? How can I limit my congregation to only 100 people? ”He complained to Univision News Bob Jackson, bishop of the Acts Full Gospel church in Oakland, California.
Those numbers mean nothing to me; I don't want to seem challenging or that I don't care what they say, but the best thing is not reopen next Sunday at the feast of Pentecost and wait for us until the end of June ”, he added.
The reopening order issued this week by the administration of California Governor Gavin Newsom comes after the pressures of more than a million Christian priests, and the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who signed an executive order and urged states to consider churches as "essential."
"Some governors have considered liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential," said the federal president. "Not well. So I am correcting this injustice and calling essential houses of worship, ”he added.
Temples, mosques and religious centers closed in California on March 19, and since then they have held their services digitally. Although from now on face-to-face events will be allowed in worship buildings, Newsom clarified that the reopening is subject to the decision of the Health Departments of each of the 58 counties in the state.
In addition, they must abide by the guide prepared by the California health authorities, not
It only limits attendance to 25%, but also includes the following measures:
Maintain online services and activities as much as possible, to protect parishioners who constitute a population at risk.
Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19.
Establish a prevention plan of the new coronavirus for each temple location.
Periodically evaluate compliance with the measures.
Establish guidelines for physical distance.
Implement strict cleaning and disinfection protocols.
Recommend staff and parishioners use cloth masks to cover the nose and mouth.
Review staff temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.
Consider eliminating activities like chorus and group recitations. At all times, people who are part of these groups must wear a mask, and if it is not possible to cancel these meetings, they will always try to organize outside the temple, respecting the members a minimum distance of two meters.
Faced with the new measures, some Catholic leaders have decided postpone the reopening of their churches until the situation is safer.
"For me, it is important that we follow security protocols for the good of all"he said in remarks to Univision Pastor Melvin Valiente of First Baptist Churh in the city of Maywood, east of Los Angeles.
"The guidelines are correct, but I will wait until July to be able to summon my parishioners, especially because Los Angeles is the epicenter of the pandemic in California. In addition, in the neighboring town of Vernon, less than a mile away where we congregated, more than 130 sick workers with COVID-19 were found at a meat processing factory in Farmer John on Friday, ”he added.
Along the same lines, Archbishop José H. Gómez, of the archdiocese of Los Angeles, He insisted on the importance of being cautious.
"We will continue to pray and we will inform them of exactly when and how things will be done, but it is important that we focus our attention on praying and protecting each other," he said in a video aimed at more than five million parishioners.
"It will not be the same because you have to respect social distance. Maybe at the beginning we have to limit the number of people who attend the celebration of the Mass, but little by little we are going to try to get things back to normal. ”
Within three weeks, the state Department of Health will analyze the impact of the measures on religious services and will issue new recommendations based on the results.
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