ALBANY, N.Y. (WWNY) - Churches, temples and mosques can open immediately in much of New York state at 25 percent capacity, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.
Cuomo said houses of worship must also observe social distancing.
“25 percent occupancy is not as easy as 100 percent occupancy, but a hundred percent occupancy is a mass gathering,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany.
“It doesn’t mean you go to a temple or mosque and sit right next to a person," Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the houses of worship can reopen now in areas of New York which are in “phase 2” of reopening. That would include northern New York.
“This is an acceleration for us because we’re doing so good on the metrics," Cuomo said.
Bishop Terry R. LaValley of the Diocese of Ogdensburg further explained what those changes will mean for their parishes. Their approved reopening plans include the following:
- Churches will undergo continuing intensive cleaning and sanitizing.
- Individuals who are at higher risk with the coronavirus and those who are sick are asked to remain at home.
- All parishioners ages 2 and over will wear face coverings while in church to protect themselves and others.
- There will be no holy water in fonts.
- There will be no offertory processions.
- There will be no passing of the collection basket. The basket will be placed in a fixed location.
- The distribution of Holy Communion will be different.
- No worship aids, such as missalettes and hymnals, will be available for use.
- There will be no choirs in the early phases of our return to public worship.
- There will be no congregating in the church, on the steps or at the doors of the church.
“We are overjoyed that more of the faithful are able to gather in public prayer and worship at Mass together. We ask that everyone exercise patience and understanding as our churches work to comply with the plans and guidelines that are intended to help keep us all safe. Please check your parish website, social media pages or contact your parish office to learn your parish’s re-opening schedule. Let us continue to pray for one another.” said LaValley.
Before Cuomo’s announcement Saturday, indoor religious services were limited to no more than 10 persons, which effectively shut down most churches. The limitation was imposed to try to stop the spread of COVIDF-19.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 has been steadily dropping, hitting a new low Friday of 35. Other measures of the illness, including hospitalizations, are also down.