California officials will release guidelines to begin reopening places of worship by Monday at the latest, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Friday briefing, but stopped short of giving an outright timeline for when churches may welcome parishioners.
Newsom’s office has been talking with faith leaders statewide over the past week, he said, ranging from megachurches to neighborhood churches.
“It’s so important that folks understand we deeply understand, admire, the faith devotion,” Newsom said, adding later, “We look forward to churches reopening in a safe and responsible manner.”
The comments came about an hour after President Donald Trump deemed places of worship as essential and threatened to “override” governors if they refused to allow churches to open ‘right now,’ though it’s unclear whether he has the authority to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control released new guidance for houses of worship later Friday afternoon. Weeks ago, the CDC had prepared a draft of the reopening guidelines that included measures like maintaining distance between parishioners and limiting the size of gatherings. But that guidance had been delayed for more than a month by the administration until Trump abruptly reversed course and ordered the agency Thursday to get the guidelines out.
Already, places of worship up and down California – including in Oakland and elsewhere in the Bay Area – have pushed back against Newsom with plans to begin in-person services starting May 31st. Large gatherings including church services are not included in the state’s guidance for the first two phases of reopening.
Frustration over varying reopening timelines has rippled through California, particularly in the hard-hit Bay Area. As of Friday, Bay Area counties had all reopened curbside retail after falling in line with Newsom’s early phase two guidance that kicked off May 8. The region was slower to join onto Newsom’s guidance than other parts of California, with San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Alameda counties not following suit until Monday, and Santa Clara joining Friday.
In response to questions about why restrictions surrounding church services could potentially be allowed to ease while other types of gatherings remain barred, Newsom said that the reopening process is “iterative.”
“All of this will begin to change – every single point of reference, specific and general, that’s reflected in the shelter-in-place,” he said. “By definition, this is not a permanent state.”
The Associated Press and Robert Salonga contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.