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California Governor Issues Guidelines For Churches To Open

 May 26, 2020 at 11:14 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 And the governor's office this week released guidelines on how services can resume at California, places of worship with more on how some churches in San Diego plan to reopen. I'm joined by Kevin Eckery. He's the vice chancellor for the Roman Catholic diocese of San Diego. Welcome to midday edition. Speaker 2: 00:17 Thanks Mark. I appreciate it. Speaker 1: 00:19 Well, you've seen the governor's guidance on how to reopen churches. That includes a 25% limit on a building's capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower physical distancing masks, no offering plates. What's your reaction to the guidelines? Do they make sense to you? Speaker 2: 00:35 Well actually they, they make, they make good sense because frankly they were all included in the work we've been doing for the last several weeks. Planning on, on the reopening. I mean the governor's guidelines were, were positive and constructive and they were not so much orders as here's a compiling of best practices that we've seen around the country on these kind of, uh, on these kinds of activities. And we've been drawing from the same sources. So there was really nothing in there that was either a surprise or unwelcome at this stage. Speaker 1: 01:09 And for Catholics in San Diego County, how else might attending church service change in this covert 19 era? Speaker 2: 01:16 Well, it's, you know, this is the new normal. Um, it w we're not going to go back to the way it was six months a year ago, uh, not for quite a while. So what they're going to find is that, um, mass has changed that, um, we've done, we've taken steps to shorten mass, um, to, to, to minimize people's exposure. So there'll be one reading from the old Testament not to, um, we will, there'll be required to, to have a face mask or face covering when the priest and the people are in the ministers are, are offering communion. They will be, um, uh, masking up themselves and we'll be keeping social distance within the church. Uh, and for the first three weeks, which is, wouldn't be extended that 25%, 100 person cap on services. Um, you know, if, assuming that, that we're all managing the opening correctly in the sense that we're, nobody's creating any hotspots. Speaker 2: 02:23 We're not, we're not, um, we're not seeing any reduction in safety, then that will loosen up a little bit in terms of what, uh, the County will have the flexibility to do. Um, the, we're just glad that we're going to be able to open. We're glad that the, so much of the hard work that people have put into to reduce that curve and, and get us to this point has paid off. And I know speaking for, you know, our Bishop that we don't want to have anything to do with, with adding to the burden on our healthcare system. So the idea of doing this right and doing it safely is been driving us the whole time. I mean, we shut down public masses as a matter of public safety and we're not going to abandon that when it comes time to reopen. And what about choirs and singing? Speaker 2: 03:17 There's been a lot written of course, that, that this is a dangerous activity. No singing. Um, there'll be a, there'll be a Cantor, one person singing that will be, uh, a musician, but there will be no choir. And the congregation, the parishioners will also not be singing either. Um, you figure if in tradition you're supposed to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. And speaking of my own singing talent, I don't think he's ever appreciated my voice. So I don't, I don't think that, that, that God will be disappointed that some of us aren't singing. Uh, it could be a blessing. It'll be a blessing to everyone around me. I can promise you that. Oh, you mentioned, you mentioned communion. There will be communion there will be coming in. Absolutely. I mean, the sacraments are essential, the Catholic faith and um, but there won't be communion, um, by wine, uh, not out of a shared gum with, there won't be communion, uh, where the priest places the host on someone's tongue that are going to, um, the, the, the minister or the priest who gives, gives community or offers communion rather will have on a mask to protect you. Speaker 2: 04:38 Um, and they'll place it in your hand. And then we've also changed the order of mass slightly. That will be at the very end of mass. So to minimize movement within the church and within the sanctuary, as soon as you have, um, communion, you're free to go. Um, because the idea is that we're going to minimize interaction inside. We're going to minimize movement, we're going to keep everybody at socially distant levels, and we're also going to continue the dispensation, uh, that people have to attend mass every Sunday. So it may be one of those situations where in the Catholic tradition, mass is offered every day. You're celebrated everyday. So, um, perhaps people will attend masses on Saturday or perhaps they'll attend masses on during the week. If there's a, if they're looking to receive communion and we're still fighting that 25%, a 100 person cap on attendance, that that way they can, they can obtain the sacraments, but we can also spread it through the week and not have to, um, put ourselves in a situation where we're turning people away or where people are disappointed that they can't receive, um, the sacraments that are so important to Speaker 1: 05:57 right. That's one way to control the capacity. I mean, you're talking about a reservation system or a Speaker 2: 06:03 well, I mean eventually it's going to be up to every, every parish if that becomes the case. For now though, we're looking at first come first serve. I see. Speaker 1: 06:13 And I go ahead. I was going to say online, Speaker 2: 06:15 I try and minimize the, minimize the complications on it. So later on maybe we'll have to switch to that or maybe people will say, okay, well I'm just going to sign up for Tuesdays or whatever it is, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it Speaker 1: 06:30 and LA online streaming services, will they still be available? Speaker 2: 06:34 That's going to continue. Yeah. That we found that to be very, um, very popular and that, um, and that it gives people, certainly not the full experience, but it was something that we were drawing numbers that were close to the number of people who would normally have attend masses. So it's absolutely something that we're going to continue. Speaker 1: 06:59 How soon are we expecting the masses to resume now? Speaker 2: 07:03 Daily masses could resume as early as the 8th of June. At some parishes, but Sunday masses will begin again on the 14th of June. And, um, and the reason for the difference is that, let's face it, you might want to have some practice runs and a sense like, like I said, in the Catholic tradition, there's a mass offered every day. This would give a give, you know, parishes a chance to and working with their volunteers and with the congregants and the pastor, a chance to just get the bugs out. Um, and then we'll also be spreading the word so people know what the new expectations are and there'll be videos on our website to help, um, you know, inform them as to what the new reality is. So we're, we're anxious to get started. Speaker 1: 07:50 All right, we got about 90 seconds left. I wanted to ask you about other services. Funeral services will be allowed to resume a weddings, baptisms, first communion scheduled for the month of may. Um, what about the other events? Speaker 2: 08:02 Yeah. W everything we'll, we're, we're going to be open for business. This is the best way to describe it. I don't know if you should describe the church as a business, but we're going to be open first. Convenience. We'll resume in June and July. Um, funerals can be, uh, booked. Now if you, if you talk to your, your pastor, your church office, um, again, again, subject to, um, the 25%, 100, uh, idea in, in, in the short run. But if it can be opened up later on, it will, but it'll still be under very strict social distancing guidelines. Speaker 1: 08:40 And of course, one local church has sued. The governor now wants to take the fight to the Supreme court. But it sounds like, like you, you're happy with the governor's guidelines and you've worked pretty well with officials. Speaker 2: 08:51 Yeah, that hasn't been a problem. I mean, and, and, and I can't certainly speak for, for anybody else, but, but in our case, we, we shut down because it was important to, to public health and that it was important to make sure we weren't contributing to the spread and that we were being careful not just to protect our own parishioners, but to protect, you know, anybody who was a vulnerable California. And who might be in touch with someone who had just been to a church service. So, Speaker 1: 09:25 well, I, I'm afraid I have to cut you off. We're out of time, but I've been speaking with Kevin Ackerley, vice chancellor of the diocese of thanks of San Diego. Thanks very much. Thanks for.

Under the guidelines, places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of a county public health department's approval of religious services within their jurisdictions, after which the California Department of Public Health will review the limits.
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