Like restaurants and businesses across the country, places of worship must function at reduced capacity, operating at most to 25 percent. They are also expected to follow the government's guidelines once they are approved by local health officials to reopen.

On Friday, Trump said he would override governors who would not allow places of faith to reopen.

Churches must comply with guidelines that encourage attendees to wear masks and practice social distancing within the places of worship and establish cleaning and disinfection protocols. 

Essential activity

Last Friday, Trump emphasized the significance of places of worship like churches, synagogues, and mosques, to Americans that provided essential services.

He then cited that some governors in key states that deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential businesses to reopen. He added that not considering churches as essential was "not right", because he said that there were places that held society together to keep the people united.

Trump sought to correct the injustice through declaring all worship services as essential.

After Trump declared church services as essential activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their own guidelines for communities of faith to follow. This included certain restrictions like social distancing and wearing face masks.

Health officials advised people against gatherings with more than ten people involved. Several states have already begun reopening with their own regulations.

The draft so far discussed the reopening of the places of worship in phases. The first would limit gatherings to video streaming and drive-in services. The following phases would allow gatherings at reduced capacity and with social distancing. However, the new guidance was reported to have no discussion of these phases.

The president added, "In America, we need more prayer, not less."

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New guidelines

Apart from reduced capacity, these places of worship are expected to function following basic mitigation measures such as maintaining a distance of 6 feet apart from others.

Churches are encouraged by states to follow guidelines that offer remote and online services. Another recommendation was to conduct services outdoors to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The places of worship are also encouraged to write or draw visible markings for churchgoers to practice proper social distancing like seating them in alternating rows. The only exception would be family members who lived in the same household, who could sit together. 

Authorities also asked places of faith to modify certain practices like the Catholic communion, which required congregants to receive the communion items in the hand.

Officials confirm that the Department of Health has three weeks to assess the impact of reopening of religious institutions, providing them ample time to prepare and reopen for the COVID-19 incubation period.

The new guidelines included rules for screening congregants and staff alike, disinfecting shared spaces, shortening services, using disposable covers for seating areas like pews, discouraging shared items like prayer rugs, books, and cushions, and minimizing contact with congregants.