Fresno city councilman Mike Karbassi is pushing the city to allow churches and places of worship to reopen.
Karbassi is proposing an ordinance to the council that would allow all places of worship to reopen as long as they follow social distancing guidelines outlined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Thursday, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand announced that the city is lifting its shelter-in-place order on May 26. All businesses and organizations authorized to reopen under state and county guidelines will be able to do so at that time.
Fresno County received approval from the state to move further into Phase 2 of Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-phase plan, meaning all retail and restaurants can reopen.
However, churches and places of worship are not allowed to open under Newsom’s plan until Phase 3.
Kevin Foster, the pastor at LifeBridge Community Church in Fresno, said in a press release that he feels his church can reopen for in-person services in a safe and responsible manner.
“New methods such as hand sanitizing stations, reserving a seat in advance, wearing of masks and contactless greeting will be implemented,” Foster said. “Our church is capable of opening in a responsible way. We’re asking that the same consideration that is applied to restaurants and retail stores, in regard to opening, be applied to churches as well.”
Gurpreet Maan of the Sikh Association of Fresno said religious congregations play a critical role in providing services for the community.
“At the Sikh Institute we have been offering limited online services and have provided as much support as possible to our congregation through the spiritual and emotional challenges of the pandemic,” Maan said. “But there are important elements that cannot be conducted online. We are seeing rise in the mental health and commotion in the community.
“We urge our city of Fresno policy makers to allow us to start opening up the faith-based congregations while keeping [the] city’s guidance for the practices necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We will do our part to keep members of the community healthy and safe.”