Religious Services May Begin In Phase 2 With Limitations

Once Long Island starts phase 2, services can begin again in churches and temples with no more than 25 percent of the normal occupancy.

When Long Island hits Phase 2 of reopening this coming week, religious institutions will be able to hold services with 25 percent occupancy in its buildings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Saturday.

Long Island is expected to begin Phase 2 on Wednesday at the latest.

The governor said he was accelerating the reopening of churches, synagogues, and mosques for all regions in the second phase of New York Forward because the COVID-19 numbers are going in the right direction. On Friday, 35 people died from the novel coronavirus — the lowest number in 98 days.

“Compared to where we were this is a big sigh of relief,” Cuomo said during his daily briefing June 6. “We’re going to open the valve more than we originally anticipated because the metrics are so good.”

If the metrics, such as the diagnostic testing rate, hospitalization rate, and infection rate, begin to go in the other direction, the governor reserves the right to close the valve.

“We didn’t flatten the curve, we bent the curve,” he said. “And we went from the worst to one of the best.”

Those attending religious institutions will have to still abide by social distancing guidelines and the governor encouraged the public to remain smart. “Watch the entranceway and the exit-way where people tend to congregate,” he said, adding that “faith-based partners” have to come up with a way to make this work.

Religious gatherings of no more than 10 people have been allowed since May 21. Cuomo also encouraged drive-in or parking lot services. For instance, the Jewish Center of the Hamptons started offering a “Drive-In Shabbat” service at Main Beach in East Hampton about a week ago.

Mass gatherings, including in churches and temples at full capacity, are prohibited until a region reaches its fourth and final phase of reopening.

Cuomo also said he is issuing an executive order that allows New York to prosecute price gauging on personal protective equipment within the state. The price of N95 masks, used mainly by health care workers, had been .07 cents per mask for the state before the pandemic, now the state is paying $7 per mask, according to the governor.

New York City is still on track to begin Phase 1 of the reopening on Monday. COVID-19 figures have dramatically declined there. “They were at a high of positive testing, at 57 percent, they are now down to 2 percent,” Cuomo said. “You want to talk about a turnaround, this one my friends, is going to go in the history book. New York was the hardest hit and in 98 days we have gotten to a much, much different place.”

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