Religous gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed to take place in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, as restrictions are eased amid a decline in coronavirus cases.
The gatherings can take place with social distancing guidelines in place starting Thursday. An interfaith council of advisors is being turned to for developing guidelines.
"I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible," Cuomo said at his daily briefing.
Hospitalizations and new COVID cases in hospitals continued their weeks-long decline, though 112 people have died in the last 24 hours, a slight increase from a day earlier.
Religious leaders for the last several days had urged the governor to consider allowing gatherings as the first phase of the economic reopening begins for most upstate New York counties this month.
The state will also allow religious gatherings in parking lots and at drive-in movie theaters where social distancing can be followed.
Some houses of worship over the last two months have taken to broadcasting their services to empty pews over social media and video conferencing platforms.
Cuomo on Tuesday had previously announced small Memorial Day ceremonies will also be allowed this weekend.
Cuomo, meanwhile, is continuing a push to have New Yorkers wear face masks in public to prevent transmission of the viurs. A contest to submit a public service announcement for mask wearing yielded 600 entrants; five finalists were announced and New Yorkers can vote for their favorite here.
Cuomo has called wearing a face mask during pandemic a mark of respect for first responders.