Religious Facilities

 

“Religious Facilities” are defined in the  COVID-19 Local Order as “churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other similar religious facilities of any faith in Montgomery County”.

Religious Facilities may open to the general public for indoor and outdoor services provided they comply with the General Operating Requirements, and the specific requirements on this page.

Multiple services are allowed in various locations within the building when religious ceremony space requirements and General Operating Requirements are followed. If multiple services are held at the same time, individuals and household groups should be assigned a specific service location, and not move between different locations.

See Frequently Asked Questions about Religious Facilities

Capacity Limits

Indoor services

Divide the total square footage of the worship space by 50.

  • That sets the limit for total persons in the space at a given time.
  • This number cannot exceed 25% of permitted occupancy, including faith leaders, volunteers, and congregants.

Outdoor services

The number of outdoor service participants shall not exceed 150 participants, absent a Letter of Approval from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Request a Letter of Approval.

Religious ceremonies

Religious ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, that take take place inside or outside of a religious facility follow the requirements for religious facilities.

Non-religious ceremonies

Non-religious ceremonies—including weddings and funerals, or any such ceremony that does not take place at a religious facility—are restricted to the 25-person maximum along with 1 person or household per 200 sq ft of gathering space. They follow the requirements for any  indoor or outdoor gathering.

Other gatherings

Any other gatherings such as committee meetings, 12-step meetings, community gatherings, or outdoor events, are capped at a 25-person maximum, along with the 200 sq ft rule.

Additional Requirements & Recommendations for Houses of Worship

If there are fixed seats or pews, every other row must remain empty and marked off.

Anyone that is not a part of the same household must remain spaced at least 6 feet apart from the point of entering the facility through their exit from the facility.

  • The only exceptions are where the core activity or safety require shorter distance (for example, pallbearers).

Spaces/seats should be marked to reflect appropriate distancing.

As participants arrive, sanctuaries should be filled front to back and congregants allowed to exit back to front. Alternatively, religious facilities may use another method of seat designation (reservations, “tickets”, ushers) to strategically fill and empty congregants.

Face coverings should be worn by all participants inside the religious facility.

Faith communities should continue to offer outdoor or remote options to the extent possible, and encourage those at high risk of COVID-19 impacts (underlying health conditions and those over the age of 60) to participate in those alternative options.

To support improved ventilation, doors and windows should be kept open during the religious ceremony where possible and appropriate.

Ceremonies that require physical contact between non-household contacts should be avoided.

Activities such as singing or chanting should be avoided.

  • Where necessary by ritual or religious tenet, any louder utterances, chanting, or singing must involve distances of 12 feet or more between participants.

For high holy days or other special gatherings, online registration/ticketing is strongly encouraged.

Prior to the first service of each day in which they participate, faith leaders, volunteers and other staff must be screened (verbally, in writing, or online) using these questions:

  • Are you suffering from any of the common symptoms of COVID-19 (coughing, difficulty breathing, loss of taste etc.)?
  • Have you had close personal contact with anybody known to have a positive COVID-19 diagnosis over the past two weeks?

Prior to the first service of each day in which they participate and where permitted by faith tradition, faith leaders, volunteers and other staff should have their temperature screened.

  • Any participant with a temperature in excess of 100.4°F should be excluded from the religious facility until at least 72 hours after symptoms resolve.

Religious facilities may also wish to screen (via questions and temperature) congregants for larger gatherings (in excess of 25 participants) as above.

Any faith leader, volunteer, or congregant that exhibits symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must be excluded from the facility until at least 72 hours after their symptoms resolve.

If any house of worship becomes aware of a congregant, volunteer, or faith leader that participated in a religious ceremony who later is diagnosed with or develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they are required to notify Montgomery County Disease Control at 240-777-1755.

Restrooms are required to adhere to the same physical distancing requirements as other segments of the religious facility. In addition, surfaces in restrooms should be wiped down with CDC- and EPA-approved cleaners between each religious service.

Regularly contacted surfaces and items, including seats, door handles, and other physical implements utilized in the conduct of faith should be wiped down after each religious service with CDC- and EPA-approved cleaners.

Community sharing of materials related to worship and other items, such as shared collection trays/baskets, bulletins, religious texts, hymnals, and other objects should be avoided wherever possible and cleaned between use where not.

Religious facilities are encouraged to make hand hygiene stations available on site. Those may include places to wash hands or hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol content.

Signage should be posted throughout religious facilities reminding congregants of COVID-19 best practices, including face coverings, physical distancing, and good hand hygiene.