5/25/20

Today has been a slow day. I slept in late and due to the Memorial Day traffic and visitors to the area I did not go anywhere other than to take Penny for her run. It is great news that the governor has decided to allow churches to reopen. His guidelines are what the church I attend, which opened yesterday after the county district attorney allowed in person church attendance, were already following.

One new confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported today in San Luis Obispo County. The latest numbers from the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department show 259 cases, up from 258 Sunday.

Of those, 234 have recovered, which is 90 percent of the overall cases, 21 are recovering at home, which is also up one from Sunday, and three people are hospitalized with two of them being in the ICU. One COVID-19-related death has been reported in the county since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials say per CDC guidelines, in order to be considered “recovered,” the patient must be fever free for 72 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath be improved. It must also be at least 10 days since the person’s symptoms first appears.

As of Sunday, the health department said 9.142 COVID-19 tests had been done in San Luis Obispo County. Eighty-five positive cases were confirmed through the public health lab and 173 at outside labs.

New data shows Paso Robles has the most cases in the county with 107, followed by Atascadero with 38 cases and Arroyo Grande with 22.

Free testing sites remain open for those wanting to be tested.

Santa Barbara County is not releasing its latest COVID-19 case count until Tuesday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom under pressure from churches and responses from county officials like Dan Dow, San Luis Obispo District Attorney, today released guidelines for reopening houses of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic, after President Trump deemed them “essential” last week. Several thousand churches had vowed to defy Newsom’s order to keep churches closed on May 31, which is Pentecost Sunday, a major holiday for many Christians.

Under the governor’s guidelines, churches and other houses of worship can reopen if they are given approval from county health officials but must limit attendance to 25 percent of capacity or 100 people, whichever is less.

In order to reopen, churches in California must set physical-distancing guidelines, establish new cleaning and disinfection protocols, encourage all to wear face masks and set parameters for singing and group recitations.

The guidelines recommended visible markings to encourage social distancing or possibly seating congregants in alternating rows. Family members within the same household could sit together while others would spread out.

The guidelines urged houses of worship to modify shared communion or similar practices, possibly by avoiding any use of the common cup, receiving communion in the hand instead of the tongue or providing pre-packaged communion items in pews.

In three weeks, the Department of Health will assess the impact of reopening houses of worship on the spread of coronavirus, officials said. The three-week interval would allow religious institutions one week to prepare and reopen and 14 days for the Covid-19 incubation period.

The new guidance still encouraged organizations to continue online services and activities and to implement measures to protect older adults and people with per-existing conditions.

In deeming houses of worship essential on Friday, Trump threatened to override governors who did not allow them to reopen.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

The president added, “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”

At the same time, Newsom, a Democrat, allowed retailers to reopen for in-store shopping statewide if county health officials allowed it, under the state’s mitigation guidelines. Under these rules, retail did not include personal services such as salons and barbershops.

The unofficial start to summer is in full swing and many people are spending the holiday weekend shopping at our local stores.

After a two-month closure, the Shell Shop, like many businesses on the Morro Bay Embarcadero, is back to business.

“We opened our first day on Thursday and it was pretty slow,” said Katie Fortman, manager of The Shell Shop. “It’s definitely boosted this weekend with a lot of tourists coming in.”

Located on the Embarcadero, the Morro Bay staple has completely COVID-19 proofed the store.

“We’ve got some social distancing signs, some mask signs, we’ve got the general COVID information out there. We have the Plexiglass. There are some markers for where people can wait,” Fortman said.

Shopping baskets are disinfected after each use and plenty of hand sanitizer is available for customer use, but Fortman said not everyone is abiding by the store’s requests.

“We’re only getting about half the people complying with our request to wear masks,” Fortman explained.

Meantime, as people navigate the changes and more businesses start to reopen, the one-way foot traffic sidewalks have more people than weeks before.

“We’re all open and ready to do business again,” said Cindy Williams, owner of The Rustic Diamond.

Williams also has just a few days of reopening under her belt.

She said six people at most can come inside the doors at one time.

“We’re trying to be really careful about how we open because we want to continue to stay open,” Williams explained.

“I think people are using the social distancing. We’re using a mask when necessary and being very polite with one another,” added Pamela Springstun of Arizona.

While it is not a typical Memorial Day Weekend, the shops we talked with say customers are showing their support for small businesses during this ever-evolving time.

“It hasn’t been overly crowded but the ones that are here are purchasing,” Williams said.

“It’s great being back,” Fortmad added.

Another safeguard in place is 50% capacity inside the stores.

The Justice Department is urging Nevada to reconsider its flat ban on religious gatherings of 10 or more people.

“We are concerned, however, that the flat prohibition against 10 or more persons gathering for in-person worship services — regardless of whether they maintain social-distancing guidelines — impermissibly treats religious and nonreligious organizations unequally,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas Trutanich and Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband wrote in a letter obtained by Fox News to the state’s Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“These directives may violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, unless the government can prove a compelling interest and pursued the least restrictive means possible,” they wrote.

They called on Sisolak to amend his emergency directive and remedy the “unequal treatment of places of worship.” Sisolak’s office did not immediately comment.

An emergency directive enacted March 20 banned in-person worship services of 10 or more people and also prohibited drive-in and pop-up services, but the state has since allowed drive-in services.

On May 9, Nevada began phase one of its reopening process by allowing barbershops and salons to reopen by appointment and restaurants and retail to reopen in-house dining at 50 percent capacity but let stand the ban on churches. On June 4, casinos are set to reopen in the state with social distancing.

Nevada’s neighbor, California, announced Monday that its houses of worship would be allowed to be opened under certain guidelines.

This past Friday, President Trump announced that houses of worship would be deemed “essential” and threatened to intervene if governors did not allow religious services to resume.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now–for this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.” The president added, “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines Friday for the reopening of houses of worship after President Trump said he is deeming them “essential” after being closed under coronavirus lockdowns.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now — for this weekend,” Trump said as he delivered a statement in the White House briefing room. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.” “In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump added.

The CDC acknowledged that “millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life” but also warned that “gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19.”

Here is what the guidelines say:

The CDC encourages face coverings for staff and congregants over the age of 2 and for those who do not have severe breathing issues for the duration of services.

The CDC calls on houses of worship to eliminate lines if a 6-foot distance between congregants is hard to ensure and to hold services outside or in a large, well-ventilated area, if possible. It also calls for physical guides, such as tape on the floor, to ensure congregants stay 6 feet apart and a guide for “one-way routes” in hallways. It also calls for additional services in order to maintain a lower capacity at each.

It calls for limiting the size of gatherings such as funerals, weddings, religious education classes and other events. It recommends clergy hold virtual visits instead of going to homes, except for compassionate care situations such as end of life.

The CDC calls for “temporarily limiting” the sharing of frequently touched objects, such as prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, shared cups, or other items. It urges sharing prayers, songs and texts via email or other technologies.

It also recommends finding other methods to collect donations, such as a stationary box or electronic methods.

The CDC calls on houses of worship to provide extra protections for older adults and those with underlying conditions or to offer remote participation for these congregants.

The CDC calls for frequently touched surfaces to be cleaned “at least daily” and shared objects to be cleaned in between uses. It also calls for proper ventilation systems and increasing the circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors and using fans.

Amethyst Shanks is cleaning benches before Sunday’s service.

A person sitting on a bench

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The sanitation station, with hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves, at the entrance used to maintain social distancing and oneway traffic flow.

A chair sitting in front of a wooden table

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Copywrite MPFitch

Published by mpfitch

I am a retired disabled veteran and am actively involved with a Baptist Church on the Central Coast of CA. I am a photographer who likes to shoot portraits and scenic photographs.

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