With masks now required in all indoor public places in California — at least until Jan. 15 — houses of worship will not be required to comply.
The state Department of Public Health still urged caution in an answer to a GV Wire inquiry as to whether masks are required in church.
“No, but vaccinated attendees at religious worship services held indoors at places of worship are strongly recommended to wear masks in such settings. This does not alter the requirement that has been in effect since June 15, 2021 that unvaccinated individuals wear masks in indoor public places,” a department spokesperson said via email.
The interpretation was welcomed by Jim Franklin, pastor of Cornerstone Church. Prior pandemic restrictions forced many houses of worship to cancel indoor services, with some moving to online and outdoor settings.
It took a lawsuit, allowing houses of worship to be considered essential and remain open.
“By closing houses of worship, we felt we’re doing more harm to individuals by denying them those services than anything the virus could do,” Franklin said.
He believes mask wearing and vaccines are personal choices.
“We believe people have the ability and the information to be responsible for their own health. We’re not anti-mask in any way or anti-vaccine, but we believe that should be a decision that’s left up to the individuals,” Franklin said.
Newsom: Faith in the People to Self-Enforce
Gov. Gavin Newsom believes the public will voluntarily comply, in statements made Wednesday at a Los Angeles news conference.
“I have more faith than you do in the capacity of people to do the right thing,” Newsom said in response to a reporter question about enforcement.
Newsom justified why masking is the best way to battle the omicron variant.
“I think people are more capable once they’re given the why and the what,” Newsom said. “I think a lot of folks will self-enforce and do the right thing. And sometimes we need a nudge. And there’s eight states in the country that have nudged. And I’m glad California is one of them.”
New Measures for Public Places
The new measures require masking inside public places, regardless of vaccination status, a reaction to the expected spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
The mask mandate also applies to schools and workplaces — regardless if they are open to the public, but employees can go maskless if they are in a room alone. Government meetings are also included.
The big question is, who will enforce such a requirement?
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims does not plan to, according to a report from ABC 10 in Sacramento.