Places of worship & Life-Rite ceremonies

Updated October 29, 2020.

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The safest option to protect the most people and prevent the spread of the virus is to offer services online during this phase of the pandemic. 

We strongly recommended that those who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (e.g. 65 years and older, living with chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised, severe obesity, diabetes, liver disease, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, etc.) continue using online options. 

Because spiritual needs cannot always be met through online programming, some spiritual leaders may decide to manage the risk and re-open portions of their in-person services. These guidelines and recommendations will help protect the health of those who choose to attend religious and spiritual gatherings in-person during this time. These guidelines and recommendations apply to places of worship and settings where life-rites occur, such as funeral homes or venues for wedding ceremonies. Social receptions or parties associated with those events still must follow indoor and/or outdoor event guidance. Life-rites include wedding ceremonies, graduation ceremonies, funeral services, baptisms, bris ceremonies, and other religious ceremonies.

IF THERE IS A CONFIRMED CASE OF COVID-19 IN THE COMMUNITY

On this page: Capacity limitations | Physical/social distancing | Masks | Presenters & performersCleaning practices | Pre-registration | Employees and volunteersDirecting movement of people (entry / exit Doors)Create a “touchless” experienceChildren’s and youth programmingOutdoor servicesSecurityMuslim ablutionReligious studies, small groups, and meetingsFood pantries and other servicesOther sacred ceremonies | Additional comments

 

Required guidelines

Indoor unseated functions - capacity limitations by dial level
  • Level Green - Protect Our Neighbors: 50% of the posted occupancy limit not to exceed 500 people excluding staff, whichever is less, per room.

  • Level Blue - Cautious: 50% capacity not to exceed 175 people per room excluding staff. 

  • Level Yellow - Concern: 50% capacity not to exceed 50 people per room excluding staff. 

    • Extra large establishments may expand to no more than 100 people indoors per room excluding staff within their usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator.

  • Level Orange - High Risk: 25% capacity not to exceed 50 people excluding staff within their usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator.

  • Level Red - Severe Risk: 25% capacity not to exceed 50 people excluding staff within their usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator.

  • Level Purple - Extreme Risk: Remote, virtual, or outdoor services strongly encouraged. In-person services may be held for groups of 10 people or fewer, excluding staff.

Indoor seated functions - capacity limitations by dial level
  • Level Green - Protect Our Neighbors: 50% of the posted occupancy limit not to exceed 500 people excluding staff, whichever is less, per room.

  • Level Blue - Cautious: 50% capacity not to exceed 175 people per room excluding staff. 

  • Level Yellow - Concern: 50% capacity not to exceed 100 people per room excluding staff.

  • Level Orange - High Risk: 25% capacity not to exceed 50 people excluding staff.

  • Level Red - Severe Risk: 25% capacity not to exceed 50 people excluding staff.

  • Level Purple - Extreme Risk: Remote, virtual, or outdoor services strongly encouraged. In-person services may be held for groups of 10 people or fewer, excluding staff.

Outdoor capacity limitations for all dial levels

Outdoor worship is always permitted under the state public health order. A place of worship must maintain 6 feet of distance between non-household members and work with the appropriate local authority to obtain approval for the maximum number of individuals who may attend in the designated outdoor space.

Physical/social distancing
  • Parties should stay at least 6 feet apart from each other. A “party” includes members of a household who live together.

  • Seating in places of worship should be arranged in such a way as to maintain at least 6 feet of distance in every direction between individuals or parties.

  • Faith communities are encouraged to add additional services to accommodate the need for physical distancing, as well as consider shortening the duration of services to minimize exposure time. 

  • Places of worship should have a plan for distancing requirements in restrooms (either allow one person at a time or close off multiple stalls in between the stalls that can be used).

  • Multiple large rooms in a facility can be used as long as each space can follow ALL the guidelines and each room has 4 walls and a door. Service times may have to be staggered to accomplish this. Leaders must attend to distancing requirements, available restrooms, separate entrance/exit doors, and timely cleaning practices.

Masks
  • The mandatory statewide mask Executive Order went into effect on July 16, 2020, and Governor Polis has extended it repeatedly since then. The Governor’s Office released the most recent amendment to the Executive Order on November 2. An extension of the Executive Order takes effect for a maximum of 30 days. The Governor and his team review each Executive Order as it approaches expiration.

  • The Executive Order requires people in Colorado who are 11 years and older to wear a cloth covering over their noses and mouths:

    • When entering or moving within any public indoor space, including places of worship and settings where life-rites occur.

    • While using or waiting to use public (buses, light-rail) or non-personal (taxis, car services, ride-shares) transportation services.

  • People who do not have to wear a mask include:

    • People who are 10 years old and younger.

    • People who cannot medically tolerate a face covering.

    • People who are officiating or participating in a life rite or religious service if the mask would interfere with the service. People who remove a mask to complete a life rite or religious service should replace it as soon as possible.

    • Children ages 2 and under should NOT wear masks or cloth face coverings.

  • We recommend that places of worship have extra masks on hand for visitors who do not have their own. Any item provided to be worn must be disposable or fully sanitized before and after each use.

  • View questions and answers about the statewide mandatory mask order.

  • Follow the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s guidance for wearing masks/cloth face coverings

Presenting speakers/singers/choirs

The below information does not replace the need for presenting speakers or singers, or performers, to wear a mask and should be followed in addition to proper mask wearing.

  • Performances with vocal speech or singing, or activities that cause heavy breathing must be 25 feet from the audience.* Performances with no forced exhalation as in the prior examples, like a piano, harp, or organ player, must be a minimum of 6 feet from the audience, but 25 feet is preferred.

  • Participants (e.g., speakers, presenters, singers, choirs, etc.) in services should have their symptoms checked, and participants who have been in close contact with an exposed or symptomatic person (within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes) should not participate and should self-quarantine.

  • Adopt seating and spacing modifications to increase physical distance from speakers, singers, and performers. 

  • Where necessary, install barriers to minimize travel of aerosolized particles from speakers, singers, and performers, or implement alternative placement of these individuals.

  • Maximize physical spacing between individuals on-stage.

  • Speakers, singers, and performers should use a separate entrance/exit than audience members where possible.

  • Speakers, singers, and performers are not included in capacity limits so long as they do not join the audience areas at any time. If these individuals join the audience, they must be included in the capacity limit numbers.

  • Disinfect high-touch areas and equipment such as: microphones, instruments, props, etc. between uses.

*Research and the CDC suggest that activities like singing may project respiratory droplets in greater quantity and over greater distance, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with prolonged exposure.

Cleaning practices

 

Strongly recommended guidelines

Pre-registration
  • Use a pre-registration system, social media platform, or private messaging to distribute the number of worshippers across the services being offered (in accordance with the physical distancing guidelines).

  • Develop a protocol for symptom screening: self-reporting, health surveys, or on-site checks. Anyone with any symptoms must not attend.

  • Consider allowing for 10% capacity at each service for “walk-ups” who do not have access to the technology to sign up or do not know how to use it.

  • Consider who will manage additional participants at the door. 

  • Maintain neat and detailed records and visitor logs to enable contact tracing (if needed). Consider encouraging visitors to enable the Exposure Notifications app on their smartphones.

Employees and volunteers
  • Upon arrival, all employees and volunteers should have their temperature taken and symptoms screened (sample screening form). Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 or showing COVID-19 symptoms must go home. 

  • Masks and gloves must be worn. 

  • Training must be provided on sanitation. If anyone has symptoms, follow workplace outbreak guidelines.

Directing movement of people (entry/exit doors)
  • Employees or volunteers (ushers, etc.) should provide physical distance directions for where to walk and which areas are available for seating/standing as the service begins and ends. 

  • Display clear signage in languages worshipers understand. 

  • Attendees should enter and exit the facility as directed: one person/household party at a time adhering to physical distancing guidelines.

  • Mark the floor of the worship space (aisles), the lobby, and the area outside the entrance and exit with physical distancing markers to cue people where to stand/wait. 

  • Avoid any close congregating or crowding before, during, or after the service. 

  • Use separate doors for entry and exit. If only one door is available, ensure times of services are spread out enough that the exit of one service can be completed before entry for the next service is allowed. 

  • Enable people to stay 6 feet apart while waiting to enter the building. This can include using ground markings, or other tactics like encouraging people to remain in their cars.

  • Throughout the service, people must maintain at least 6 feet of distance from all persons not in their household/party. 

  • After services, people must return directly to vehicles, maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others.

Create a “touchless” experience

Where possible, places of worship are encouraged to create a plan which allows for worshippers to avoid all contact with surfaces. 

  • Doors: Doors entering the building and inside the building should either remain propped open or be opened/closed by employees/volunteers throughout the entire process. Consider leaving outside doors open during services if weather permits to improve airflow inside the building.

  • Hand sanitizer: Locate touchless hand-sanitizer units at the front door and throughout the facility.

  • Greeters: Greeters and attendees must greet each other while maintaining at least 6 feet of distance at all times and refrain from shaking hands or having any personal contact.

  • Designated standing room: Where possible, some spaces can be designated for those who desire to stand during the service with proper physical distancing (so as not to touch the chairs). 

  • Communion: Direct interaction between faith leaders and congregants should be touch-free. Individually packaged communion is the safest option. When communion is not individually wrapped, the container for the host/bread should remain covered and uncontaminated during blessings and prayers. Distribution should be touch-free. Common cups are very high-risk and should not be used.

  • Offering: Offering boxes or baskets should be attached to the wall or set at an entrance or exit of the worship space in a way that attendees do not have to touch it when they give. Do not pass baskets or plates among attendees.

  • Hymnals/religious books: These items should be removed and photocopies should be made available that can be discarded after one individual use, if permissible in that faith tradition. Consider projecting materials on a wall/screen for congregations to read together. Best practice is for worshippers to bring their own religious books and/or use technology to project lyrics, scriptures, liturgies, etc., so no physical copies are necessary, or provide links that can be used to get to the materials on a cell phone.

  • Contact with religious objects: Minimize communal contact with objects of religious or spiritual significance. If possible, consider wearing gloves or other protection while handling.

  • Food and beverage: No food or beverage may be offered by the place of worship. No food or beverage may be brought in by individual attendees to share with others.

Children’s and youth programming
  • Children and youth may attend religious services with parent(s)/caregiver(s) who feel confident they can enforce at least 6 feet of distance between children and adults from different households.

  • Particular services should be catered to families and publicized accordingly in order to mitigate the risk of cross-generational transmission. 

  • Places of worship that would like to provide programming for children and youth must demonstrate an ability to adhere to all guidelines for child care centers published by CDPHE. Children’s and youth programming, separate from the religious services, may occur but with a strong recommendation for meeting outdoors, providing at least 6 feet of distance between parties from all sides, and the use of masks by all participants.

 

Other areas of recommendation/consideration

Outdoor services
  • These services are allowed if all applicable guidelines listed in this document can be followed. Special consideration must be given to directing people from the parking lots to the outdoor setting while physically distancing, as well as indicating where people can sit/stand. 

  • Guests should bring their own lawn chair/blanket to minimize the shared use of chairs and other items (umbrellas, etc.). 

  • At least 6 feet of distance between parties is still required.

Security
  • Unfortunately, hate groups have used the fear of the pandemic to promote discrimination –- particularly against Asian, Jewish, and Muslim communities. Places of worship should be mindful of this as they make plans for reopening. 

Muslim ablution
  • Where possible it is recommended that ablution occur privately at the attendees’ place of residence before arriving at the mosque. If that is not possible, staff or volunteers should clean faucet handles and other items between each use.

Religious studies, small groups, and meetings
  • Religious studies, book studies, and other small groups are strongly encouraged to continue to meet virtually. 

  • Staff might consider limited meetings in the religious facility with appropriate physical distancing and masks. Where possible, these groups are encouraged to meet outdoors and to follow proper physical distancing guidelines and the use of masks. 

  • Religious facilities should follow the cleaning, movement, and mask guidance above.

Food pantries and other services
  • These activities may occur at the religious facility assuming all the relevant guidelines listed in this document can be followed and additional CDPHE guidelines for specific service facilities are followed. When distributing items, the gatherings should remain at 10 individuals or under in one room with guidance observed for physical distancing, masks, and cleaning. 

Other sacred ceremonies

As with all other services offered, if all the above guidelines can be met, these events are permitted. 

 

Additional Comment

  • Places of worship should immediately refer to the health department’s guidance if there is deemed to be an outbreak in their community.

  • Consider these recommendations as ways to protect your community and the general public. Be sure to check with your insurance company about liability around COVID-19 exposure in your facility. 

 

Frequently asked questions