Safely reopening Marin County from COVID-19

Faith-based Organizations

Current Status

Update July 13, 2020:  The California Governor announced the closure of additional indoor businesses and activities and indoor faith based services was included on that list.  However, since Marin County had not yet allowed houses of worship to move forward with indoor services and ceremonies, all local houses of faith should only be conducting services and ceremonies outside or online.  It does, however, reinforce the current decision that the safest environment for services and ceremonies is outdoors with limited groups of people, and by enforcing the guidelines listed in the public health order provided below.

Beginning June 6, outdoor faith-based and cultural ceremonies are allowed to proceed under the current shelter-in-place order and the guidelines provided below.  Size and layout of ceremonies are restricted to help guests maintain physical distancing, among other health precautions.  Please review the guidelines below for additional requirements.  Houses of faith are encouraged to continue utilizing online virtual meeting options as much as possible to limit the spread of COVID-19, especially for members with compromised immune systems or other health concerns.

There is no current target for reopening ­­ indoor worship services. Outdoor worship services are still allowed to operate under the guidance previously issued by Public Health.

For updates and further information on guidance issued by the State of California, please visit the California COVID-19 webpage.

Reopening Guidelines

Each business must complete the COVID-19 Site Specific Protection Plan (SPP) prior to reopening. The SPP should include approved best practices outlined below.

INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC GUIDANCE OF THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE COUNTY OF MARIN REGARDING REQUIRED BEST PRACTICES FOR ORGANIZATIONS OR INDIVIDUAL ORGANIZERS PROVIDING OUTDOOR FAITH-BASED OR CULTURAL CEREMONIES

This industry-specific guidance is being issued pursuant to the May 15, 2020 Order of the Health Officer of the County of Marin Directing All Individuals in the County to Continue Sheltering in their Place of Residence (the “Shelter in Place Order”) and unless otherwise defined below, initially capitalized terms used in this guidance have the same meaning given them in that order.  This guidance goes into effect on June 5, 2020.

This guidance remains in effect until suspended, superseded, or amended by the Health Officer, is supported by the justifications set forth in the Shelter in Place Order, and automatically incorporates any revisions to that order or other future orders issued by the Health Officer that supersede that order or reference this guidance. All businesses addressed herein and allowed to operate under the Shelter in Place Order are required to follow this industry-specific guidance and implement all Best Practices detailed below.

This guidance and its enumerated Best Practices may be revised by the Health Officer, through revision of this guidance or another future order, as conditions relating to COVID-19 require, at the discretion of the Health Officer. Each business identified herein must stay updated regarding any changes to the Shelter in Place Order, this guidance, and the Best Practices specifically applicable to it by checking the Marin Recovers website regularly.

UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF CALIFORNIA HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTIONS 101040, 101085, AND 120175, THE HEALTH OFFICER DIRECTS AS FOLLOWS:

  1. This guidance applies to all owners, operators, managers, or supervisors of any organization that Shelter in Place Order permits to be open to the public in the County of Marin (the “County”) and that consist of any of the following:
  • Faith-based organizations or individual organizers that intend to provide services outdoors as allowed by this Guidance and if allowed by local jurisdictions (“Faith-Based Organizations”); and
  • Organizations or individual organizers that intend to provide wedding – including similar commitment ceremonies – or funeral or wake services outdoors as allowed by this Guidance and if allowed by local jurisdictions (“Cultural Ceremony Organizations”).
  1. Each Faith-Based and Cultural Ceremony Organization must create, adopt, and implement a written COVID-19 Site-Specific Protection Plan (a Site-Specific Protection Plan template is available online at marinrecovers.com) that incorporates and addresses all applicable Best Practices included in this guidance.
  1. Depending on the nature of the business covered by this guidance, there may be certain people associated with the business that are subject to this guidance. Collectively those people are referred to by this guidance and the Best Practices as “Personnel”, and those people include all of the following who provide goods or services associated with the business in the County: employees; contractors and sub-contractors (such as those who sell goods or perform services onsite or who deliver goods for the business); independent contractors (such as “gig workers” who perform work via the business’ app or other online interface); vendors who are permitted to sell goods onsite (such as farmers or others who sell at stalls in farmers’ markets); volunteers; and other individuals who regularly provide services onsite at the request of the business. This guidance requires the business to ensure that Personnel who perform work associated with the business are addressed by the COVID-19 Site-Specific Protection Plan and comply with those requirements.
  1. Implementation of this guidance augments—but does not limit—the obligations of each Faith-Based and Cultural Ceremony Organization under all other existing Health Officer Orders, including, but not limited to, all requirements of the Facial Coverings Order and the obligation to prepare, post, and implement a Social Distancing Protocol as required by the Shelter in Place Order.
  1. Best Practices for Faith-Based Organizations and Cultural Ceremony Organizations providing outdoor services:
  • Continue to host remote/virtual services and ceremonies to the greatest extent possible.
  • Encourage individuals who are medically vulnerable to worship or attend remotely.
  • Require all individuals who are sick to stay home.
  • Consider reducing the service or ceremony length to lessen the risk of virus transmission.
  • Consider offering services specifically for medically vulnerable.
  • Greet attendees in a way that maintains six feet of separation without physical contact.
  • Design seating arrangements to provide a minimum of six feet separation non-household groups.
  • Disinfect chairs between before and after use.
  • Implement one-way foot traffic directional patterns & designate a foot traffic control monitor.
  • Implement phased entrance and release, as opposed to everyone moving at once; use ushers to provide seating assignments. Attendees shall be dismissed from back to front so that people don’t walk past others, and at deliberate pace to help with distancing. Allow for extra time between services and ceremonies to ensure that attendees are able to return to their vehicles or otherwise leave in a socially distanced manner.
  • No more than 100 people or the maximum able to congregate in a certain outdoor space based on social distancing protocols, whichever is least, are allowed to congregate during a single service or ceremony. Add additional services with fewer attendees where possible.
  • Attendees must be required to leave as soon as the service or ceremony has concluded. No continued gathering shall be permitted.
  • Discontinue offering self-service food and beverages.
  • Do not allow for social eating and drinking events, including coffee hours, potlucks, receptions, and passed or catered food or beverage services.
  • Food, beverages or other items shall only be consumed if absolutely required as part of a faith-based ceremony. Provide items in single-serve disposable containers whenever possible. Personnel serving such items should wash hands frequently and wear disposable gloves and face coverings.
  • Do not loan out or pass around hymnals or other tangible other items to individuals for use and return. Text, images, or other information may be projected or otherwise displayed for viewing during faith-based services without contact.
  • Use no-interaction approaches to giving, such as online giving or having parishioners place gifts/tithes/donations in a basket upon leaving the service.
  • Avoid sharing microphones. If microphones must be shared, disinfect the microphone between each individual’s use.
  • Attendees shall be required to bring their own fabric mats, rugs or cushions as needed for participation in faith-based services to prevent sharing of these items.
  • Provide clear signage requiring attendees to remain socially distanced in household groups, follow the marked flow of foot traffic, wear face coverings as required by the Health Officer Order for Face Coverings.
  • Umbrellas, canopies and other shade structures may only be used if they do not have sides and allow for the free flow of air through the space.
  • If attendees are provided restroom access, restrooms must be frequently disinfected.
  • The host must maintain a list with names and contact information of all participants. If a participant tests positive for COVID-19, the host shall assist the County Public Health Department in any case investigation and contact tracing associated with the gathering.
  1. This guidance is issued in furtherance of the purposes of the Shelter in Place Order. Where a conflict exists between this guidance and any state, local, or federal public health order related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including, without limitation, the Site-Specific Protection Plan, the most restrictive provision controls. Failure to carry out this guidance is a violation of the Shelter in Place Order, constitutes an imminent threat and menace to public health, constitutes a public nuisance, and is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.

(View a signed copy of the order – PDF)

Best Practice Guidelines

(paste this into your Site Specific Protection Plan and fill in the <required content>)

  • Continue to host remote/virtual services and ceremonies to the greatest extent possible.
  • Encourage individuals who are medically vulnerable to worship or attend remotely.
  • Require all individuals who are sick to stay home.
  • Consider reducing the service or ceremony length to lessen the risk of virus transmission.
  • Consider offering services specifically for medically vulnerable.
  • Greet attendees in a way that maintains six feet of separation without physical contact.
  • Design seating arrangements to provide a minimum of six feet separation non-household groups.
  • Disinfect chairs between before and after use.
  • Implement one-way foot traffic directional patterns & designate a foot traffic control monitor.
  • Implement phased entrance and release, as opposed to everyone moving at once; use ushers to provide seating assignments. Attendees shall be dismissed from back to front so that people don’t walk past others, and at deliberate pace to help with distancing. Allow for extra time between services and ceremonies to ensure that attendees are able to return to their vehicles or otherwise leave in a socially distanced manner.
  • No more than 100 people or the maximum able to congregate in a certain outdoor space based on social distancing protocols, whichever is least, are allowed to congregate during a single service or ceremony. Add additional services with fewer attendees where possible.
  • Attendees must be required to leave as soon as the service or ceremony has concluded. No continued gathering shall be permitted.
  • Discontinue offering self-service food and beverages.
  • Do not allow for social eating and drinking events, including coffee hours, potlucks, receptions, and passed or catered food or beverage services.
  • Food, beverages or other items shall only be consumed if absolutely required as part of a faith-based ceremony. Provide items in single-serve disposable containers whenever possible. Personnel serving such items should wash hands frequently and wear disposable gloves and face coverings.
  • Do not loan out or pass around hymnals or other tangible other items to individuals for use and return. Text, images, or other information may be projected or otherwise displayed for viewing during faith-based services without contact.
  • Use no-interaction approaches to giving, such as online giving or having parishioners place gifts/tithes/donations in a basket upon leaving the service.
  • Avoid sharing microphones. If microphones must be shared, disinfect the microphone between each individual’s use.
  • Attendees shall be required to bring their own fabric mats, rugs or cushions as needed for participation in faith-based services to prevent sharing of these items.
  • Provide clear signage requiring attendees to remain socially distanced in household groups, follow the marked flow of foot traffic, wear face coverings as required by the Health Officer Order for Face Coverings.
  • Umbrellas, canopies and other shade structures may only be used if they do not have sides and allow for the free flow of air through the space.
  • If attendees are provided restroom access, restrooms must be frequently disinfected.
  • The host must maintain a list with names and contact information of all participants. If a participant tests positive for COVID-19, the host shall assist the County Public Health Department in any case investigation and contact tracing associated with the gathering.

When additional guidelines for reopening houses of faith and faith-based businesse are updated, they will be posted to this page.  Please sign up to receive notifications when additional business protocols and other information about business reopening in Marin County becomes available.

Questions?  Contact us.

Group Lead

  • Chantel Walker, Assistant Director, Marin County Free Library

Group Members

  • Rev. Reid W. Hankins, Trinity Presbyterian Church
  • Rev. Rondall Leggett, First Missionary Baptist Church
  • Etienne Douglas, Village Baptist
  • Michael Kamler, Rodef Sholom
  • Khadija Hansia-Gibson, Islamic Center of Mill Valley
  • David Erskine, Mt. Tam United Methodist Church
  • Vihn Luu, Buddist Community
  • Keenny Aguilar, Saint Raphael Church and Mission
  • Michelle Latvala, Spirit Rock
  • Miguel Garza, Saint Raphael Church and Mission
  • Patrick Markle, Spirit Rock
  • Janette Morrow, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin
  • Rev. Scott Quinn, Marin Interfaith Council
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