Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions have been allowed to stay open for virtual services.
However, people will not be allowed to congregate in their place of worship until most likely Phase 4, the very last phase.
Some Republican Lawmakers are saying this is way too late.
“With everything going on, a lot of these folks they’re depressed,” explained Assemblyman Chris Tague. “They’ve been in isolation now for over two months and those that have strong religious beliefs want to get back to church.”
Assemblyman Tague says going to church gives people a sense of normality. While he understands the need to limit mass gatherings, Tague says religious institutions can come up with a plan that will allow them to maintain social distancing.
“I’m not by any means saying let’s open everything up and let’s have large gatherings. I understand the situation,” Tague said. “But there are different ways to do it. We’ve kept grocery stores open, we’ve kept liquor stores open for goodness sakes, but we don’t allow a way for a congregation to practice their religious right?”
Dennis Poust with the State Catholic Conference said while specific plans will be up to each diocese, there are ways churches can safely reopen such as limiting the number of people allowed in and even encouraging some of their most at-risk population to continue to stay home.
“We could mark off pews, we would close pews,” Poust explained. “And we would have to disinfect between every mass. There’s a part of the mass that’s called the sign of peace where people exchange greetings like a handshake or a hug or a kiss. And that’s obviously going to have to go away.”
Poust says while they do not want to rush things, the Catholic Conference does want to work with the state on ways places of worship can possibly reopen in Phase 2 or 3.
“Beaches are going to be open, hair salons are going to be open, we think we can be at least as effective at eliminating transmission as those sorts of things,” Poust said. “So what we would really like is a partnership and the ability to have that conversation with health officials.”
Churches reopening in Phase 4 is still tentative, so religious leaders are also looking for a more definitive timeline on when they can get back up and running.