In his press conference today, Governor Jay Inslee said that religious congregations throughout Washington can gradually return to normal worship services, as he explained new state guidance.

Inslee said that in-person religious gatherings are allowed to resume with restrictions that adhere to physical distancing and safety practices to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The governor’s new guidance lines up with the first and second phases of his recovery plan.

For example, in Clark County, which is currently in Phase 1, outdoor religious services on church property would be allowed for up to 100 people. Counties in Phase 2 — such as Cowlitz, Skamania, and Lewis — would be allowed to have in-church services at 25 percent capacity, or with no more than 50 congregants. The new Phase 2 guidance also permits in-house services or counseling at a congregant’s residence, as long as it includes five or fewer people. The new guidance applied to religious services, study groups, ceremonies, and holiday celebrations.

Inslee urged appropriate physical distancing and face masks, and said there should be six feet between seats, frequent cleaning and sanitization, and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) available at all times.

The governor said the ban has been a challenge for people of all religions acknowledging that “people treasure gatherings.”

“Obviously (the religious communities) are protecting their own flock, their own congregation … but they’re protecting everybody outside, of multiple faiths,” Inslee remarked. “This is truly an all-faiths issue.”

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