CDC releases guidelines for reopening houses of worship: Here’s what they say

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines Friday for the reopening of houses of worship after President Trump said he is deeming them “essential" after being closed under coronavirus lockdowns.

"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 as he delivered a statement in the White House briefing room. "If they don't do it, I will override the governors."

"In America, we need more prayer, not less," Trump added.

The CDC acknowledged that "millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life" but also warned that "gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19."

Here’s what the guidelines say:

Face coverings encouraged 

The CDC encourages face coverings for staff and congregants over the age of 2 and for those who do not have severe breathing issues for the duration of services.

TRUMP ANNOUNCES THAT HOUSES OF WORSHIP ARE ESSENTIAL, CALLS ON GOVERNORS TO OPEN THEM UP 

Social distancing

The CDC calls on houses of worship to eliminate lines if a 6-foot distance between congregants is hard to ensure and to hold services outside or in a large, well-ventilated area, if possible. It also calls for physical guides, such as tape on the floor, to ensure congregants stay 6 feet apart and a guide for “one-way routes” in hallways. It also calls for additional services in order to maintain a lower capacity at each.

It calls for limiting the size of gatherings such as funerals, weddings, religious education classes and other events. It recommends clergy hold virtual visits instead of going to homes, except for compassionate care situations such as end of life.

Minimize community sharing 

The CDC calls for “temporarily limiting” the sharing of frequently touched objects, such as prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, shared cups or other items. It urges sharing prayers, songs and texts via email or other technologies.

It also recommends finding other methods to collect donations, such as a stationary box or electronic methods.

Protections for those considered high-risk 

The CDC calls on houses of worship to provide extra protections for older adults and those with underlying conditions or to offer remote participation for these congregants.

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Cleaning and disinfecting procedures 

The CDC calls for frequently touched surfaces to be cleaned “at least daily” and shared objects to be cleaned in between uses. It also calls for proper ventilation systems and increasing the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors and using fans.