Churches and other houses of worship will be among the last places to reopen in New York State, along with concert halls and stadiums.
Religious institutions will be part of the last phase of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s four-phase reopening plan.
This is because they are inviting large numbers of people to their meetings, which is a major concern as health officials try to minimize the spread of Covid-19.
According to the established parameters, the earliest they could reopen would be June 26.
During a Monday briefing, New York Budget Director Robert Mujica said the state is still considering allowing small meetings in places of worship.
But large, regular services will be among the last types of meetings to reopen.
“The houses of worship, as if I was going to open them regularly, with new guidelines, would fall in the last stage,” Mujica said.
“That’s a mass meeting. The same with a stadium, the same with any situation where there are many people together.”
“It’s not the religion, it’s the gathering.”
Although religious leaders are seeking information on when to reopen, Governor Cuomo’s executive orders have prohibited social gatherings. There is even a case of a county that criminalizes “non-essential gatherings of any size.
Cuomo has said that the issue of reopening churches has nothing to do with religion, but with mass gatherings.
“The last thing you want is 100, 200 people in close proximity,” Cuomo said in Syracuse last week. “It has nothing to do with religion. It’s the gathering.”