Governor’s latest COVID-19 announcement – religious services, cultural ceremonies, protests and retail

Counties Statewide Can Reopen Places of Worship for Religious Services and Retail Stores

Press Release May 25, 2020
Number: NR20-100

  • Modifications Required to Protect Californians against COVID-19
  • Places of Worship Should Limit Attendance to 25% of Total Capacity or a Maximum of 100 Attendees
  • Retail Guidance for In-Store Shopping, Already in Place for Certain Counties, Now Applies Statewide

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health today announced the statewide reopening of places of worship for religious services and in-store retail shopping. Modifications are required to keep Californians safe and limit the spread of COVID-19. Subject to approval by county public health departments, all retail stores can reopen for in-store shopping under previously issued guidelines. Under new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity – or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower – upon approval by the county department of public health.

While the vast majority of large gatherings remain prohibited under the state’s stay-at-home order, the Department of Public Health has released guidelines for in-person protests and events designed for political expression. The guidance limits attendance to 25% of an area’s maximum occupancy – or up to 100 attendees.

“Together, our actions have helped bend the curve and reduce infections in our state. As sectors continue to open with changes that aim to lower risk, remember that COVID-19 is still present in our communities,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health. “As more of us may be leaving our homes, keeping physical distance, wearing face coverings in public, and washing your hands frequently are more important than ever to help protect yourself and those around you.”

The new (PDF) guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages organizations to continue online services and activities, including to protect individuals who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.

To reopen for religious services and funerals, places of worship must:

  • Establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.
  • Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19, including how to prevent it from spreading and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.
  • Implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols.
  • Set physical distancing guidelines.
  • Recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings, and screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.
  • Set parameters around or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For this reason, congregants engaging in singing, particularly in the choir, and group recitation should wear face coverings at all times and when possible, these activities should be conducted outside with greater than 6-foot distancing.

The existing (PDF) guidance for retailers, previously allowed for counties approved to advance in the reopening process, now applies statewide. Retail can now open for in-store shopping statewide. The guidelines help reduce the risk for workers and customers. Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops.

In 21 days, the Department of Public Health, in consultation with local departments of public health, will review and assess the impact of the religious services guidelines and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities. This 21-day interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen in addition to a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.

More information about the state’s COVID-19 guidance is on the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance web page.

More information about reopening California and what individuals can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) in California.

Additional Resources

Benicia retired pastor to friends and neighbors: DON’T GO TO RELIGIOUS SERVICES!

[Editor: Well, if you didn’t know, I’m the retired pastor.  And I don’t even know if any of Benicia’s anti-mask-don’t-tread-on-me folks are planning to attend religious services.  But if they are… DON’T JOIN THEM, DON’T GO!  The story below is living, coughing, deadly proof from nearby.  Oh, and… most faith communities are streaming worship, and the Governor has just today issued new guidelines for very limited religious gatherings, including funerals.  – R.S.]

More cases connected with worship services in Mendocino, Butte counties

San Francisco Chronicle, by Bob Egelko , Kate Galbraith and Lauren Hernández May 24, 2020
Bishop Marc Andrus bows before the altar while rehearsing virtual Easter Sunday service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, April 12, 2020.
Bishop Marc Andrus bows before the altar while rehearsing virtual Easter Sunday service at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, April 12, 2020. Photo: Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle

As religious leaders await new rules from Gov. Gavin Newsom that could allow houses of worship to reopen with social-distancing adjustments, concern is mounting in Mendocino and Butte counties as more coronavirus cases tied to churches there have emerged.

Mendocino County health officer Dr. Noemi Doohan said Friday that her county’s six most recent confirmed cases were all connected to an outbreak at Redwood Valley Assembly of God. The county had previously reported that three people — including the pastor — who participated in a live-streamed Mother’s Day service at the church had contracted the virus. Most parishioners did not attend the service in person.

“When we have an outbreak of such a large magnitude, it’s very concerning because we know that these individuals have had other contacts since contracting the disease,” Doohan said.

In addition, a second case out of a Butte County Mother’s Day church service has emerged, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. More than 180 people attended the service, which was held in violation of the state’s shelter-in-place orders. One attendee had tested positive not long after the service. On Thursday, county Public Information Officer Lisa Almaguer said a second person tested positive, the Enterprise-Record reported.

Butte County has 34 coronavirus cases. Dr. Andy Miller, the county health officer, said in a video update Friday that Butte officials have seen a “pretty dramatic increase in cases,” though he did not say whether any additional cases were connected with the church.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce a schedule Monday for the resumption of in-person services, with social-distancing adjustments. But that is not soon enough for some California pastors, who want to be able to hold services at a time of rising spiritual needs.

On Friday, a divided federal appeals court refused to order Newsom to allow in-person services at this stage of the pandemic.

Over a dissent by an appointee of President Trump, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied an injunction sought by a Pentecostal church and its pastor in San Diego County, who argued that Newsom was violating freedom of religion by refusing to allow churches and other places of worship to reopen.

Upholding a federal judge’s refusal to allow immediate reopening of the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, the appeals court said Newsom’s decisions have not selectively targeted or burdened religious conduct.

“We’re dealing here with a highly contagious and often fatal disease for which there is presently no known cure,” Judges Barry Silverman and Jacqueline Nguyen said in the 2-1 ruling.

In dissent, Judge Daniel Collins said the state was probably violating the religious freedom of the church, its pastor and members.

Newsom’s defenders are making an “extraordinary claim that the current emergency gives the governor the power to restrict any and all constitutional rights, as long as he has acted in ‘good faith,’” Collins said.

City of Benicia This Week – a great source for local news

Today’s weekly newsletter from Benicia City Manager Lorie Tinfow is  full of important and interesting information.

Today for instance, you will find excellent clarifying info on Solano/Benicia rules for retail openings, and short articles on upcoming City Council consideration of mandatory face coverings, Benicia Farmers Market, Library book drops, public works week, high heat warnings, the 2020 Census and various press releases.  See below…

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City of Benicia This Week

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Highlights:  City Sets a Modified Reopening for June 1, Outdoor Activities and Encroachment for Business Order, Downtown Business Walk, Library Book Drop, Farmers Market Returns, Public Works Week, Census Reminder, High Heat This Week

May 25, 2020

Happy Memorial Day!
Today is the traditional start of summer and a heat wave is forecast for the next few days. In times past, the City’s facilities-the senior center, the library, and the pool-served as cooling centers for those who don’t have air conditioning at home. This year is different with those facilities remaining closed because of the pandemic emergency. Even so, we are still here for you! If you need assistance, please call the Community Services Phone Line at 707.746.4285, Monday through Friday, 8:30 – 5:00 or email And remember the following heat wave safety tips:
  • Check in on those most susceptible to heat impacts
  • Reduce outdoor activities, especially in the afternoon
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing
  • Apply sunscreen regularly when outdoors
  • Know where shade is available
  • Don’t leave pets or children in cars
It’s never been more important than it is now to check on your senior neighbors, friends and family members, during the pandemic when seniors need to stay home. We will be checking on the seniors who regularly participated in our programs. Please join us in reaching out to those you know and let’s take care of each other!
On a different topic, last Friday, Solano County amended its shelter-at-home order to allow more business sectors to begin the safe reopening process under a set of specific safety parameters. Businesses newly allowed include destination retail stores (such as bookstores, jewelry stores, toy stores, clothing stores, home furnishing, sporting goods, florists), shopping malls, swap-meets, dine-in restaurants, and office-based business operations. Patrons visiting businesses should look for social distancing protocols, occupancy limits, and extra sanitary activities such as use of hand sanitizer. Face coverings are not required but are strongly recommended. Businesses are also required to post signage certifying compliance with the regulations that apply to their business type. For more information about restaurants, please see the COVID-19 Dine-in Restaurants Checklist and for retail, please see COVID-19 Retail Checklist. Risk of virus transmission remains an active threat so please take steps to protect yourself and if the business you want to visit doesn’t meet the requirements, don’t patronize it! For questions about the regulations, Solano County has a warm line about COVID-19; call 707.784.8988 or email, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tomorrow night, the Council is holding a study session to discuss ideas related to assisting businesses during COVID-19 as well as how to proceed related to face coverings in Benicia. This meeting will be held via teleconferencing; click here for the agenda. The meeting is broadcast in the usual ways-on Channel 27 and via the City’s website. Speaking of helping businesses, please take a look at the press release at the bottom of this newsletter to learn about City action taken last Friday to streamline the process for outdoor dining and shopping.
Thank you for your interest in the City of Benicia This Week! 
Lorie Tinfow
City Manager
COVID-19 News

City Sets a Modified Reopening for June 1:  Typically, we would be announcing that we are closed today in observance of Memorial Day. But as most City facilities have been closed due to the State’s shelter-at-home order, we are taking the opportunity to remind that the City will begin reopening with modified services on Monday, June 1. Details were shared in last week’s message.

The annual Memorial Day Ceremony, sponsored by Benicia Historical Society, has been canceled this year. Due to the historically large turnout for this event, it has been canceled for the health and safety of attendees. Please take time today to honor military personnel who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Outdoor Activities and Encroachment for Business Order:  Late Friday, City Manager Lorie Tinfow signed her third order as Emergency Services Director. The order streamlines the process for businesses to expand operations into outdoor locations to allow for social distancing, allowing for businesses to set up seating in their parking lots, on neighboring property with owners’ permission, or in the public right of way.  Click here to view the order. Business owners will find the Temporary COVID-19 Outdoor Activities and Encroachment Agreement application beginning on page 5 of the order. The completed application and property permission should be submitted to City Manager Lorie Tinfow at or Economic Development Manager Mario Giuliani at

A big THANKYOU goes to Republic Services. In recognition of increased outdoor dining and picnicking, they have agreed to add an additional day of garbage pick up from cans on First Street at no additional charge to the City of Benicia.
Library Book Drop:  Benicia Public Library will begin accepting book returns with a new process. Due to the need to quarantine items for 72 hours before staff handles them, (Covid-19 lives that long on plastic), library staff will open the outside book drops twice a week. Upcoming dates are:
  • May 26, 12 – 6 p.m. or until full
  • June 1, 12 – 6 p.m. or until full
  • June 5, 12 – 6 p.m. or until full
More dates are to be announced. Books may also be returned to any Solano Library location, open daily. Library staff ask that you do not return Link+ items, LaunchPads, or eBook Readers. If you are unable to return items during these hours, do not worry. Fines are not being accrued until further notice. Please note that the library is unable to accept book donations at this time.

Farmers Market Returns:  After review by City staff in the special events process, one of the first events to return from quarantine is Benicia Main Street’s  Certified Farmers Market, on Thursdays, 4-8 p.m., starting June 4. Please note, however, that this farmer’s market will be smaller and operate with more rules than in the past. Details follow.

The farmers market provides fresh, healthy food for our community. Best practices will be implemented to protect customers, farmers, and staff to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, with guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), California Department of Food & Agriculture, and California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets.
Per orders of the State & County only farmers and prepackaged food vendors may participate in the market. No sampling will be allowed. There will be no hot food, arts & crafts, jump houses, face painter or music at this time.
If you plan to attend, Benicia Main Street asks that you:
  • Come prepared and limit your visit time.
  • Wear a face mask/face covering before entering the market.
  • Clean/Sanitize your hands.
  • Honor social distancing of six feet while at the market.
  • Observe all posted signage and demarcated lines, which signal where customers should wait, six feet apart, while in line.
  • High risk groups should send another family/household member or neighbor to shop for them.
  • Always stay home if you are sick.
  • Visit booths with shorter lines first.
  • Always cough or sneeze, into your arm or a tissue, away from people and food.
  • As always, wash your fruits and veggies when you return home.
City News
Benicia Public Works Week 2020
Benicia Public Works Week 2020
Public Works Week:  “The Rhythm of Public Works” was the theme behind American Public Works Association’s (APWA) annual National Public Works Week, held this year May 17-23.
APWA’s municipalities across the country celebrated the Week by teaching their communities the importance of public works to improve the quality of our daily lives, giving a voice to the impact that the many facets of public works have on a community.
From providing clean water at your tap, disposing of solid waste, to engineering and administrative services that maintain, operate, repair, and where necessary, improve City public facilities, responding to natural or manmade disasters, public works services determine a society’s quality of life.
Benicia Public Works invites you to view this video showing what Public Works does in the City of Benicia. You can honor the vital contribution public works professionals make every day and celebrate their quiet dedication and indispensable influence on our way of life. Show your appreciation by spreading the word on social media with the hashtag #NPWW or #TheRhythmofPublicWorks.

Census Reminder:  If you have completed the 2020 U.S. Census, thank you! If you haven’t taken it yet, please do so as soon as possible. Taking the census now will avoid a census working having to come to your home to complete the census for your address.

You can take the Census online, by phone or by mail. It’s confidential, quick and easy. Your response helps determine how $1.5 trillion in funding is allocated to our community every year. Click here to take it online. Additional information is available at
High Heat This Week:  Our first heat wave of the year is forecast for this week with the highest temperatures occurring Tuesday through Thursday. The Benicia Public Library is typically used as a cooling center but as it remains closed, along with the James Lemos Swim Center, due to their being classified as phase 3 closures, residents should take extra precautions to remain hydrated, limit time outdoors, and dress for the heat.
Press Releases
Recent City of Benicia press releases are available on the City of Benicia website under Main/Announcements.
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City of Benicia: Solano County recommends use of cloth face coverings when social distancing measures are difficult to maintain

Benicia Announcements, Sunday, May 24, 2020 at 5:15 PM

Solano County posted a press release today recommending the use of cloth face coverings when social distancing measure are difficult to maintain.

“It is important to remember that while we are all working together to reopen retail shops, malls and dine-in restaurants, the coronavirus is still here in Solano County,” says Bela T. Matyas, M.D., M.P.H, Solano County Public Health Officer.

“Wearing a cloth face covering, as recommended by the CDC and CDPH, is an additional way to protect yourself and others and can help slow the spread of the disease. Also, we ask that people wear non-surgical, non-N-95 respirator face masks, as those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.”

Solano County encourages wearing a cloth face mask outside your home whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained, maintaining a physical distance of six-feet from others, practicing coughing and sneezing etiquette, using a hand sanitizer or washing your hands for at least 20-seconds and to stay at home if you’re not feeling well. Businesses that are permitted to reopen must abide by the social distancing requirements in the County’s and State’s Orders.

Additional information is available in the press release at

For more information about Solano County’s Roadmap to Recovery, social distancing protocol and frequently asked questions about the phased reopening, visit the Solano County website at and on Facebook at