WHEN IS MY SHUL GOING TO OPEN? UPDATE LETTER FROM CA MAYOR GAVEN NEWSOM – The Mayor says shuls can now begin to open with some important guidlines
COVID -19 INDUSTRY GUIDANCE:
Places of Worship and Providers of Religious Services and Cultural Ceremonies
May 25, 2020
On March 19, 2020, the State Public Health Officer and Director of the California
Department of Public Health issued an order requiring most Californians to stay at home
to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 among the population.
The impact of COVID-19 on the health of Californians is not yet fully known. Reported
illness ranges from very mild (some people have no symptoms) to severe illness that may
result in death. Certain groups, including people aged 65 or older and those with serious
underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease or diabetes, are at higher
risk of hospitalization and serious complications. Transmission is most likely when people
are in close contact with an infected person, even if that person does not have any
symptoms or has not yet developed symptoms.
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As stay-at-home orders are modified, it is essential that all possible steps be taken to
ensure the safety of workers and the public.
Key prevention practices include:
✓ physical distancing to the maximum extent possible,
✓ use of face coverings by employees and volunteers (where respiratory protection
is not required) and congregants/visitors,
✓ frequent handwashing and regular cleaning and disinfection,
✓ training employees and volunteers on these and other elements of the COVID-19
In addition, it will be critical to have in place appropriate processes to identify new
cases of illness in workplaces and, when they are identified, to intervene quickly and
work with public health authorities to halt the spread of the virus.
This document provides guidance for places of worship and providers of religious
services and cultural ceremonies (referred to collectively as “places of worship”) to
support a safe, clean environment for employees, interns and trainees, volunteers,
scholars, and all other types of workers (referred to collectively as “staff”) as well as
congregants, worshippers, visitors, etc. (referred to collectively as “visitors” or
This guidance does not obligate places of worship to resume in-person activity. Further,
it is strongly recommended that places of worship continue to facilitate remote services
and other related activities for those who are vulnerable to COVID19 including older
adults and those with co-morbidities.
Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of
multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk
for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of
infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations. In
particular, activities such as singing and group recitation negate the risk-reduction
achieved through six feet of physical distancing.
*Places of worship must, therefore, limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or a
maximum of 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 and
cultural ceremonies activities at places of worship within their jurisdictions.
Upon 21-days, the California Department of Public Health, in consultation with county
Departments of Public Health, will review and assess the impact of these imposed limits
on public health and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of
activities in places of worship.
Individual Control Measures and Screening
• Provide temperature and/or symptom screenings for all staff at the
beginning of their shift. Make sure the temperature/symptom screener
avoids close contact with staff to the extent possible. Both screeners and
staff should wear face coverings for the screening.
• If requiring self-screening at home, which is an appropriate alternative to
providing it at the establishment, ensure that screening was performed
prior to the worker and/or volunteer leaving the home for their shift and
follows CDC guidelines, as described in the Topics for Employee Training
• Places of worship should consider where disposable gloves use may be
helpful to supplement frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizer;
examples are for staff who are screening others for symptoms or handling
commonly touched items. All workers and volunteers should wear gloves
when handling items contaminated by body fluids.
• Face coverings are strongly recommended when staff are in the vicinity
of others. Workers and volunteers should have face coverings available
and wear them when at all facilities, in offices, when making home visits
as part of providing services, or in a vehicle during work-related travel
with others. Face coverings must not be shared. Places of worship are
generally encouraged to provide face coverings but must provide them
when required by employer rules or these guidelines.
• Places of worship must take reasonable measures, including posting
signage in strategic and highly-visible locations, to remind
congregants/visitors that they should use face coverings and practice
physical distancing whenever possible. Babies and children under age
two should not wear face coverings, in accordance with CDC guidelines.
• Congregants/visitors should be screened for temperature and/or
symptoms upon arrival to places of worship and asked to use hand
sanitizer and to wear face coverings.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols
• Perform thorough cleaning of high traffic areas such as lobbies, halls,
chapels, meeting rooms, offices, libraries, and study areas and areas of
ingress and egress including stairways, stairwells, handrails, and elevator
controls. Frequently disinfect commonly used surfaces including
doorknobs, toilets, handwashing facilities, pulpits and podiums, donation
boxes or plates, altars, and pews and seating areas.
• Establish frequent cleaning and disinfection of personal work areas such
as desks and cubicles and supply the necessary cleaning products.
Provide time for workers to implement cleaning practices during their
shift. Cleaning assignments should be assigned during working hours as
part of the staff’s job duties.
• Discourage sharing items used in worship and services (such as prayer
books, cushions, prayer rugs, etc.) whenever possible and provide single use or digital copies or ask congregants/visitors to bring personal items
instead. Avoid sharing work equipment and supplies, such as phones,
office equipment, computers, etc., wherever possible. Never share PPE.
• Where such items must be shared, disinfect between shifts or uses,
whichever is more frequent, including the following: shared office
equipment (copiers, fax machines, printers, telephones, keyboards,
staplers, etc.) and items in shared worship items, etc., with a cleaner
appropriate for the surface.
• Ensure that sanitary facilities stay operational and stocked at all times
and provide additional soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer when
needed. Consider more frequently cleaning and disinfecting
handwashing facilities that are used more often. Use signage to reinforce
• Consider using disposable seat covers for congregants/visitors,
particularly on porous surfaces or where a facility has multiple daily
services. Discard and replace seat covers between each use. Provide
disposable or washable covers on pillows used as seating on floors and
change/wash them after each use.
• Install hand sanitizer dispensers, touchless whenever possible, at
entrances and contact areas such as meeting rooms, lobbies, and
• Wash religious garments and linens after each service or event, at the
highest water setting possible. Ask congregants/visitors to bring their own
storage bags for personal garments and shoes. Staff, congregants, and
visitors should wear gloves when handling others’ dirty linens, shoes, etc.
• Discontinue passing offering plates and similar items that move between
people. Use alternative giving options such as secure drop boxes that do
not require opening/closing and can be cleaned and disinfected.
Consider implementing digital systems that allow congregants/visitors to
make touch-free offerings.
• During meetings and services, introduce fresh outside air, for example by
opening doors/windows (weather permitting) and operating ventilation
• Consider installing portable high-efficiency air cleaners, upgrading the
building’s air filters to the highest efficiency possible, and making other
modifications to increase the quantity of outside air and ventilation in
worship areas, offices, and other spaces.
Physical Distancing Guidelines
• Implement measures to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet
between workers, staff, congregants/visitors, etc. This can include use of
physical partitions or visual cues (e.g., floor or pew markings or signs to
indicate where people should sit and stand). Reconfigure seating and
standing areas to maintain physical distancing of six feet or more
between congregants/visitors from different households. Consider limiting
seating to alternate rows. Members of the same household may be
seated together but should maintain at least six feet of distance from
• Consider dedicating staff to help people maintain distances during
• Shorten services to limit the length of time congregants/visitors spend at
facilities whenever possible. This could include limiting speeches, asking
congregants/visitors to put on garments at home before arrival, etc.
• Close places of worship for visitation outside of scheduled services,
meetings, etc., whenever possible.
• Consider implementing a reservation system to limit the number of
congregants/visitors attending facilities at a time. This can include the use
of digital platforms or other types of tools.
• Encourage congregants/visitors to meet with the same group, particularly
when services meet frequently and/or require a certain number of
people to be present. This can reduce the spread of transmission by
minimizing the number of different individuals who come into close
contact with each other.
• Consider offering additional meeting times (per day or per week) so that
fewer guests attend meetings and services at one time. Clean meeting
areas between each use as described in this guidance.
• Discontinue large gatherings that encourage congregants/visitors to
travel and break physical distances during activities, such as concerts,
large holiday and life event celebrations and remembrances.
• 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.
• Encourage congregants/visitors to physically distance themselves from
others outside their household, avoid touching surfaces, and to leave the
facility if they do not feel well.
• Consider limiting touching for religious and/or cultural purposes, such as
holding hands, to members of the same household.
• Dedicate staff to direct guests to meeting rooms upon entry to places of
worship rather than congregating in lobbies or common areas. Consider
using ushers to help people find places to sit and stand that are at least
six feet apart from other guests/household groups. Ask
congregants/visitors to arrive and leave in a single group to minimize
crossflow of people. Welcome and dismiss congregants/visitors from
altars, podiums, meeting rooms, etc. in an orderly way to maintain
physical distancing and minimize crossflow of traffic, to the extent
• Prop or hold doors open during peak periods when congregants/visitors
are entering and exiting facilities, if possible and in accordance with
security and safety protocols.
• Close or restrict common areas, such as break rooms, kitchenettes, foyers,
etc. where people are likely to congregate and interact. Consider
installing barriers or increase physical distance between tables/seating
when there is continued use of these areas.
• Turn off public drinking water fountains and place signs informing
congregants/visitors they are inoperable.
• Remove from service or find low-community touch alternatives for
communal/religious water containers such as fonts, sinks, and vessels.
Empty and change water between uses. Where there is a possibility of
contaminant splash, staff, congregants, visitors, etc., are strongly
encouraged to use equipment to protect the eyes, nose, and mouth
using a combination of face coverings, protective glasses, and/or face
shields. Reusable protective equipment such as shields and glasses should
be properly disinfected between uses.
• When washing is a required activity, modify practices whenever possible
to limit splashing and the need to clean and disinfect washing facilities.
Encourage necessary washing to be performed at home prior to entering
a facility, if possible.
• Reconfigure podiums and speaker areas, office spaces, meeting rooms,
conference rooms, etc., to allow for at least six feet between people.
Face coverings are strongly recommended at all times for
congregants/visitors and staff, especially when physical distance of at
least six feet is not possible.
• Establish directional hallways and passageways for foot traffic, if possible,
and designate separate routes for entry and exit into meeting rooms,
offices, etc., to help maintain physical distancing and lessen the instances
of people closely passing each other.
• Limit the number of individuals riding in an elevator and ensure the use of
face coverings. Post signage regarding these policies.
• Utilize practices, when feasible and necessary, to limit the number of staff
and congregants/visitors in office, meeting spaces, etc., at one time. This
may include scheduling (e.g. staggering start/end times), establishing
alternating days for onsite reporting, returning to places of worship in
phases, or continued use of telework when feasible.
• Close self-service item selection such as pamphlet displays and
bookshelves and provide these items to congregants/visitors individually
as necessary. Consider delivering items and information electronically.
• Consider limiting the number of people that use the restroom at one time
to allow for physical distancing.
• Discourage staff, congregants, visitors, etc., from engaging in
handshakes, hugs, and similar greetings that break physical distance.
Take reasonable measures to remind people to wave or use other
• Reconfigure parking lots to limit congregation points and ensure proper
separation (e.g., closing every other space). If performing drive-in
services, ensure vehicle windows and doors are closed if six feet of
distance is not possible between vehicles.
• Continue to support non-in person attendance of services and other
related activities by those who are vulnerable to COVID19 including older
adults and those with co-morbidities.
Considerations for Places of Worship
• Discontinue offering self-service food and beverages. Do not hold
potlucks or similar family-style eating and drinking events that increase
the risk of cross contamination. If food and beverages must be served,
provide items in single-serve, disposable containers whenever possible.
Employees or volunteers serving food should wash hands frequently and
wear disposable gloves and face coverings.
• Strongly consider discontinuing singing, group recitation, and other
practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for
transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets. Modify practices such
as limiting the number people reciting or singing, ensuring physical
distancing greater than six feet between people, or opt to celebrate
these practices outside with physical distancing, etc., if these practices
cannot be discontinued.
• Consider modifying practices that are specific to particular faith traditions
that might encourage the spread of COVID-19. Examples are
discontinuing kissing of ritual objects, allowing rites to be performed by
fewer people, avoiding the use of a common cup, offering communion
in the hand instead of on the tongue, providing pre-packed communion
items on chairs prior to service, etc., in accordance with CDC guidelines.
PLEASE NOTE: THAT THE ABOVE UPDATE DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOUR SHUL
IS NOW OPEN. What the update does is give community Rabbis the option to now open and some guidelines to follow.
Ultimately your Rav will tell you when and how your shul will open. See Letter from Agudath Israel of California
from May 22nd.
WHO IS GOING TO DECLARE? – “ATTENTION EVERYBODY SHULS ARE NOW OPEN”!
It doesn’t matter what you see and hear on social media, what we know for sure is that until our local government says “houses of worship” can re-open, our shuls will not re-open.
We are currently (5/15/2020) in PHASE BET (2) and houses of worship are not on the list. (It seems a little wrong that BIG 5
can open but not my shul!)
When MY shul is going to open will be determined by our local government and MY shul’s Rav. Each community will have its own plan and each individual will have to follow what their Rabbi says.
I wish that the Hillygram would get an email from Paul Koretz’ office telling us to announce that shuls are now free to open!
We would then announce, “GREAT NEWS! SHULS ARE NOW OPEN! YOU CAN GO TO SHUL TOMORROW MORNING FOR SHACHARIS -See a list of davening times below!”
HOW WILL IT HAPPEN
The Mayor of LA will send out a bulletin saying we are now in PHASE ( ) and Shuls are included in the
list of places that can open. Of course, there will be many rules that shuls will have to follow. At that point each shul and its Rav will
make their own decision on how and when to open the shul.
AS OF TODAY 5/15/20 no shul and no gatherings to learn.
With Shavuos approaching, we are once again reminded of times when we would get together, learn, and eat and drink with family and friends. We have to remain strong in knowing we are doing what is right. It can be very challenging when we hear of certain “private” minyans and perhaps groups getting together and learning, especially if we hear of such gatherings over Shavuos. When we hear of such things it naturally makes us feel anxious that we are missing out or that individuals could begin to feel left out.
CHAZAK CHAZK V’NISCHAZEK!
Stay well. Be strong. Stay home! This too shall pass.