Bishop Joseph V. Brennan, of the Diocese of Fresno, released a statement Wednesday regarding the reopening of Catholic churches and the guidelines they are recommending.
"By necessity, this reopening will be incremental and prolonged, literally one step at a time," he said in a statement. "The following guidelines have been put together to help all of us in that process so that we may open up again in a safe and responsible way."
Guidelines for reopening churches include:
- maintaining church building capacity at 25% or a maximum of 100 participants, whichever is lower.
- Only essential persons need to assist with Mass, such as ushers, greeters, servers, and volunteers.
- Ministers or parish staff should be at the doors while the assembly is entering, counting off the number of people entering the building. When capacity is reached, people must be asked to leave and return for another service. No one should be outside waiting for the next service.
- Keeping hand sanitizer available at all entrances, keeping restrooms sanitized, and ensuring custodial staff and volunteers should wear single-use gloves and eye protection while cleaning or handling any used linens or vestments, which should be discarded after each cleaning.
- Confessions may be heard inside the church, as long as a 6-foot distance between the priest and penitent is maintained. The Diocese is also allowing drive-thru confessions as long as members remain in their vehicles and priests maintain a 6-foot distance.
The Diocese is asking employees and volunteers will be screened before entering the building. Anyone who displays any symptoms should be sent home and not allowed to enter. It is asking all members to self-screen at home.
The Diocese is also suggesting each parish have a 15-day supply on hand of all necessary items for staff and volunteers before the first Mass is celebrated.
Parishes are being encouraged to hold Mass outdoors, either in chairs or in cars. The Diocese is reminding parishes if they do assemble outdoors, to check with local authorities in advance of any worship services outside to ensure it is allowed. They also recommend being mindful of weather and restroom availability.
Parishes with very small church buildings or without the resources or staff to properly disinfect the church building safely are allowed to celebrate a drive-in style Mass. All safety protocols remain the same, including the use of masks, sanitizing the area, and social distancing.
The Diocese is recommending parishioners over the age of 65, whose immune system is compromised, or who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to remain at home.
To read the full guidelines released, see here.