COVID-19 is a serious respiratory disease that spreads quickly. As the number of infected people continues to rise, churches throughout the Los Angeles area must change the way they do things in order to prevent exposure and reduce its spread.
As the current Health Office Order states, all non-essential service businesses must stop in-person operations, which includes churches. This does mean, however, that you can continue operations at home with other guidelines in place, which we discuss below.
Before we get into the guidelines though, please note that anyone infected with COVID-19, must stay at home for at least 10 days from the day of the first symptom and an additional 3 days minimum after the symptoms are gone (no more fever or breathing issues). In addition, anyone that’s been exposed to an infected person should isolate themselves for 14 days to ensure that they don’t have symptoms of the illness. This is in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.
In addition, anyone that is in a high-risk group should stay home, no matter the guidelines below. Those at high risk are the following:
- Anyone over the age of 65 no matter their health
- Anyone with a suppressed immune system including those with cancer or HIV
- Anyone with chronic illnesses including heart disease and diabetes
- Pregnant women
If you don’t fall into one of the categories above, we help you understand at what capacity churches can operate and what it should look like to prevent the spread of COVID-19 below. As always all precautions should be taken to avoid contact and disinfect all areas as much as possible. If there is in-person contact based on the allowed events, social distancing, which means keeping a 6-foot distance is critical.
Encourage everyone in the congregation to:
- Wash their hands frequently
- Keep a 6-foot distance from one another
- Do not share any objects including utensils, cups, phones, and other objects
- Avoid sharing handshakes or hugs
- Regularly disinfect commonly touched areas using EPA-registered disinfectants
At this time only funerals and weddings are allowed to happen in person and even those are limited to the absolute essential participants. Everyone should use common sense when evaluating who should be in attendance, monitoring their symptoms or lack of symptoms right before attending. If any symptoms arise, you should not attend.
Limited Attendance Gatherings
While most church events are not allowed, at this time small-attendance funerals and weddings are allowed with the following guidelines:
- In attendance at weddings may only be the officiant, couple, and one witness
- Social distancing between everyone but the couple must be followed
- If one part of the couple has COVID-19 symptoms, the wedding may not take place and must be postponed
- If a witness or officiant has symptoms, the wedding may not take place unless there is a substitute, otherwise it must be postponed
- Avoid use of shared items or any items that can’t be disinfected
- Live streaming of the ceremony is acceptable to allow other family members and friends to join in on the celebration
- In attendance at funerals may only be up to 10 family members that live together; one person to identify the body if necessary; and necessary funeral staff
- Social distancing between family members and the funeral staff is required
- Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home
- No touching of the deceased body if he/she died of COVID-19; if anyone does touch the body, proper handwashing and disinfecting of any objects touched must take place
- Limit commonly touched objects including door handles by keeping doors open and eliminating any ‘optional’ objects that could be touched and contaminated
- Livestreaming of the service is allowed to allow other friends and family to have closure
No Attendance Services
While weddings and funerals are the only in-person attendance services allowed, the following may be observed:
- Regular church services may be live-streamed in accordance with the parish’s rules and desires
- Any distribution of clothing or food must be no-contact, including no-contact drop-off or no contact in-person pick up (grab and go); there must be no human contact
- Any hospital, hospice, or assisted living visits should be done virtually if at all possible. If last rites are being read, all proper precautions including PPE, proper handwashing, and disinfection must take place in the hospital setting
- All religious celebrations including baptisms, bat mitzvahs, communions, and confirmations must be postponed until the restrictions are lifted
- All counseling with priests and clergy must be virtual until the restrictions are lifted
- All community groups must be virtual until the restrictions are lifted
Churches play a vital role in the Los Angeles community and following these guidelines will help support those in need while preventing the spread of COVID-19 even further.