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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday released guidelines for reopening houses of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic, after President Trump deemed them “essential” last week.
Under the governor’s guidelines, churches and other houses of worship can reopen if they are given approval from county health officials, but must limit attendance to 25 percent of capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.
In order to reopen, churches in California must set physical-distancing guidelines, establish new cleaning and disinfection protocols, encourage all to wear face masks and set parameters for singing and group recitations.
The guidelines recommended visible markings to encourage social distancing or possibly seating congregants in alternating rows. Family members within the same household could sit together while others would spread out.
The guidelines urged houses of worship to modify shared communion or similar practices, possibly by avoiding any use of the common cup, receiving communion in the hand instead of the tongue or providing pre-packaged communion items in pews.
In three weeks, the Department of Health will assess the impact of reopening houses of worship on the spread of coronavirus, officials said. The three-week interval would allow religious institutions one week to prepare and reopen and 14 days for the Covid-19 incubation period.
The new guidance still encouraged organizations to continue online services and activities and to implement measures to protect older adults and people with pre-existing conditions.
In deeming houses of worship essential on Friday, Trump threatened to override governors who did not allow them to reopen.
"The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now--for this weekend," Trump said. "If they don't do it, I will override the governors."
The president added, "In America, we need more prayer, not less."
At the same time, Newsom, a Democrat, allowed retailers to reopen for in-store shopping statewide if county health officials allowed it, under the state’s mitigation guidelines.
Under these rules, retail did not include personal services such as salons and barbershops.
Fox News' Michael Lundin and Melissa Summers contributed to this report.