Faith-Based Organizations FAQs
Faith-Based Services Questions
Has there been any updates to the Public Health Order for Places of Worship?
As of August 31, 2020, the Public Health Order was updated. Per the Public Health Order, a “gathering” is any event or convening that brings together more than one person in a single room or single indoor or outdoor space at the same time. A gathering does not include: A religious service or cultural ceremony including a wedding ceremony which is allowed provided the State Guidance on Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies is followed.
However a wedding reception is a gathering and is not allowed.
Are temperature screenings now required and can they be completed at
home prior to coming to work?
Yes. Temperature and symptom screenings continue to be required for essential and reopened businesses. As per the Public Health Order businesses and industries need to review their industry guidance, fill out a social distancing and sanitation protocol, as well as a safe reopening plan, all of which reference mandatory processes to screen employees. As per the state employee playbook, temperature and symptom screenings may be performed at home prior to coming to work and this is an acceptable alternative to temperature screenings at the location.
Are Places of Worship allowed to open inside? How many people are
allowed for indoor worship services?
The State of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy establishes a four-tier system for reopening sectors. Those sectors listed in the “Substantial/Tier2” column of the Activities and Business Tiers chart are allowed to reopen under the conditions set forth in the chart, which is where San Diego is currently at. Tier 2 allows Places of Worship permission to open indoors with modifications, but indoor services must be limited to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. There is no limit on attendance for outdoor services, but attendance is limited to the “natural setting,” which would still allow people to practice social distancing. In addition, other rules apply and all of those can be viewed at the California Department of Health Update: California Department of Public Health Guidance on Places of Worship. Places of Worship must also arrange for social distancing of at least 6 feet between people, establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance. In addition, Places of Worship will still need to create, post, and share the safe reopening plan, as well as follow the Big 4, which are requiring facial coverings (especially indoors), social distancing, cleaning and sanitation, and temperature checks/screenings for employees and volunteers.
Is singing allowed indoors? Is it allowed outdoors?
Singing is allowed during outdoor services, as long as all the precautions are followed such as facial coverings and social distancing. Activities such as singing and chanting negate the risk reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing and unfortunately, indoor singing and chanting activities are still prohibited according to the State of California’s COVID-19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE: Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies. Singing indoors is ONLY permitted for the purpose of recording/streaming worship services if needed.
Do we need to fill out the safe reopening plan? Do we need to post this
on our doors? Is anyone from the County or State going to approve this
or can we just post and implement?
Per the Public Health Order, a house of worship does need to fill out the County’s Safe Reopening Plan, as well as post it publicly, share it with your employees, and follow state guidance. You do not need to submit these forms to us - we do not review it. Houses of worship need to fill out the safe reopening plan and post it at your place or worship, share with employees and we encourage you to adhere to the stated guidelines as closely as possible. If conducting an outdoor service or any kind, the safe reopening plan must be posted/displayed where people can view. (Updated 8/6/2020)
What is the guidance on hosting 12 Step programs and AA in worship
The State has responded that AA meetings may operate at this time but should be done remotely where possible. AA meetings are separately permitted from faith-based counseling but should follow the same guidelines as stated here COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Limited Services. (Posted 8/6/2020)
Can we expect some guidance regarding faith-based grade schools and high
schools? Can you give guidelines/timeframe for reopening children's
Per the Public Health Order: All public, charter and private schools may hold classes or school business operations on the school campus, provided the school complies with the measures contained in the State COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs issued by the CDPH (including the face covering requirements contained therein), also incorporating where feasible the guidelines provided in Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools issued by the California Department of Education.
How can faith leaders help the community while not putting themselves at
Faith-based leaders offer comfort and support to congregants and communities at-large during times of distress. As trusted messengers they have the unique ability to convey vital health information and calm fears and anxieties regarding COVID-19. First and foremost, it is important to ensure that you are protecting yourself and the people you are serving. Everyone should adhere to physical distancing and facial coverings guidance. By modeling and reiterating simple hygienic precautions and practices, faith leaders can broadly promote health information, manage fear and stigma, and restore a sense of calm into the lives of those in their care. Proper hand washing is critical in reducing risk, as is adhering to COVID-19 Disinfection Guidance to sanitize surfaces often.
Additionally, using technology such as video conferencing platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts to host virtual services and offer counseling will help reduce risk and the number of people who become sick. Where access to technology is not an option, activating congregation phone trees for calling and texting of messages from faith leaders may go a long way to support congregants and help them feel connected to their house of worship during these difficult times.
Are bible studies and youth groups permitted?
Bible studies and youth groups may be allowed under the guidance but stable groups with no mixing and virtual bible studies and groups are still preferred. Houses of worship must still follow the rules in the California Department of Health Update: California Department of Health Guidance on Places of Worship. (Posted 6/25/2020)
What is the guidance regarding funerals?
Funerals are currently allowed per guidance, but the least amount of people should be present and people attending from different of households should be avoided if possible. There are no limitations to the number of people attending when a service is performed outdoors, however you still must maintain 6 feet of social distancing between people. For more information, see the California Department of Public Health Industry Guidance for Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies. (Posted 6/25/2020)
What is the call-to-action for faith leaders?
Faith-based leaders are valuable sources of comfort and support for their members and communities during times of distress, including the growing presence of COVID-19. As such, they have the unique ability to address potential concerns, fears, and anxieties regarding COVID-19. Additionally, by reiterating simple hygienic precautions and practices, faith leaders can broadly promote helpful information, managing fear and stigma, and restoring a sense of calm into the lives of those in their care.
Can anyone tell me if small groups are allowed now that we are in stage
2? can they meet outside in very small numbers with a mask?
Group worship at a residence or house of worship would not be permitted at this time – it would be considered a gathering of non-household members.
When will church preschools be allowed to open?
Childcare centers can currently be open per the Public Health Order: Child daycare and child care providers shall operate in compliance with the measures set forth in State COVID-19 Updated Guidance: Child Care Programs and Providers and shall prepare and post a Safe Reopening Plan pursuant to section 11 in the Public Health Order.
Under the California Department of Health Update California Department of Public Health Guidance on Places of Worship: Children should remain in the care of those in their household unit and not interact with children of other parties at any time while visiting facilities. Close play areas and discontinue activities and services for children where physical distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained. (Posted 8/6/2020)
COVID-19 Related Questions
How does a face covering protect us?
We know from studies that there is a significant portion of individuals who are infected with coronavirus but lack symptoms (asymptomatic). Furthermore, those who eventually develop symptoms (presymptomatic) can transmit virus to others prior to showing symptoms. What this means is that the virus can spread between people who are interacting in close proximity – speaking, coughing, sneezing – even if these people are not exhibiting symptoms. Facial coverings, in addition to all of the other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), such as physical distancing, hand washing and not gathering, are important to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Facial coverings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and should be used in addition to physical distancing when we are outside.
Are face coverings required to be worn during a service? Is singing
allowed? Can I have small group gathering with 6 feet social distance?
Per the Public Health Order: Gatherings are still prohibited.
INDOORS: Discontinue singing (in rehearsals, services, etc.), chanting, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets. Consider practicing these activities through alternative methods (such as internet streaming) that ensure individual congregation members perform these activities separately in their own homes.
OUTDOORS: Singing outdoors is permitted, but facial coverings should be worn, and individuals/households need to maintain 6 feet physical distancing.
People in California must now wear face coverings when they are in the high-risk situations listed below, per to California Department of Public Health Guidance:
- Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space;
- Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank
- Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle;
- Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off-site, when:
- Interacting in-person with any member of the public;
- Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
- Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
- Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities;
- In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance.
- Driving or operating any public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or private car service or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. When no passengers are present, face coverings are strongly recommended.
- While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.
Certain exemptions to the face covering requirement are allowed, to see those, please see the requirements. (Updated 8/6/20)
Does anyone have guidance about how to use our HVAC systems? Is it
better to keep the fan on the whole time, so air is moving? Or does that
just make it less likely the virus will get down to the floor?
If possible, cooling centers should be equipped with air exchange systems, and be located in buildings with tall ceilings. Utilize the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the cooling center’s existing HVAC system, and adopt “clean-to-dirty” directional airflows. If resources allow, ceiling fans with upward airflow rotation combined with upper-air ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) disinfection systems can be utilized. When conditions allow (low humidity), shaded outdoor spaces with cross-draft airflow augmented by evaporative coolers may provide a safer alternative. For additional information, please refer to the CDC’s Guidance on COVID-19 and Cooling Centers. (Posted 5/13/2020)
For additional questions and resources, please email Covid-CBO-Faith@sdcounty.ca.gov