San Diego County has reported another 96 cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths, bringing the county’s total to 6,797 cases and 249 deaths as statewide stay-at-home orders begin to loosen.

The total number of cases requiring hospitalization is 1,244 and cases requiring intensive care are 370, the County Health and Human Services Agency reported. Of the 3,700 tests reported to the county Sunday, 96 were positive new cases.

The 14-day rolling-average percentage of new positive cases among county residents is 3.2%.

In the meantime, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued guidance Monday to churches and other houses of worship in California on how they can safely reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the guidelines, places of worship must limit attendance to 25% of building capacity or 100 attendees, whichever is lower. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of each county public health department’s approval of religious services within their jurisdictions, after which the California Department of Public Health will review the limits.

They must also arrange for social distancing of at least 6 feet between people, establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.

Churches and other houses of worship were ordered closed to the public on March 19. Since then many have adjusted by holding virtual services, while a few have recently resumed in-person services in violation of the order.

Newsom said the state has been “working with the faith community to advance the efforts to begin to put out guidelines, processes and procedures to (protect the) health and safety of congregants and parishioners.”

The entire statement can be found at covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance-places-of-worship.pdf.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released “interim guidance” Friday for houses of worship, while continuing to warn that “gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19 during this public health emergency.”

The CDC guidance includes standard recommendations such as frequent hand-washing, encouraging face coverings for staff and congregants, frequent cleaning of surfaces and promotion of social distancing through physical set-up and limited attendance.

More than 1,200 pastors and clergy from across California sent the governor a letter last week saying they plan to resume in-person services May 31, regardless of state restrictions.

Some churches and faith leaders have also sued the state, seeking to compel the reopening of houses of worship, and the U.S. Department of Justice recently sent a letter to the state warning that restrictions on such facilities could be a violation of federal law.

In San Diego County, some 1.3 million Roman Catholics are being invited to attend in-person Masses as early June 8, church officials said this weekend.

Parishes may adopt different logistics, such as indoors, outdoors or a hybrid.

“After a great deal of discussion, we concluded that the first weekend for the public celebration of the Eucharist in our parishes should be the feast of Corpus Christi, June 14,” Bishop Robert McElroy said in a letter posted Saturday on Facebook. “This seems a beautifully symbolic and joyful feast in which to bring together anew our Eucharistic communities.”

But McElroy said a weekday opening has been suggested.

“Thus, if a pastor wishes to initiate daily Mass from Monday, June 8, that will be permitted,” he wrote in the two-page letter.

Parishioners are not required to attend in-person Masses. McElroy said he has removed the obligation “for the foreseeable future,” so people can opt to worship online. “All of us must urge sick or especially vulnerable members of our communities to refrain from coming to Mass, and we must continue the wonderful online Masses that so many of you have been providing for your people in these days,” he said.

In his letter, Bishop McElroy said he spoke at length Friday with Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health director, “and received support for our plan to reopen our parishes in a manner that will vigorously safeguard public health.”

I the meantime, Barona Resort and Casino also announced their re-opening plan, which welcomes patrons back to the casino on Wednesday.

Other tribal casinos began re-opening their doors this past week, despite disapproval from county officials. Tribal casinos are on federally regulated land, outside the county’s jurisdiction. Barona Resort and Casino is the eighth tribal casino to restart operation in San Diego County.

Barona’s first phase of re-opening will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Table games will be limited to a maximum of three players per table and every other slot machine will be turned off to further encourage space between players.

Patrons and staff will be screened for high temperatures and symptoms of the novel coronavirus before entry, a casino report said. All will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“Our first concern is always the health and wellness of Barona’s Tribal elders and Tribal community along with all of our staff, our players and surrounding community,” Chairman Edwin ”Thorpe” Romero of the Barona Band of Mission Indians, said.

One of the casino’s restaurants will run at half capacity and its hotel will maintain a 35% capacity, casino officials said. The buffet will remain closed as will the casino’s bussing service and wedding chapel.

The California Department of Public Health Monday also announced the statewide reopening of in-store retail shopping, a major step in California’s emergence from shutdown orders issued in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The retail guidance for in-person shopping that is already in place for certain counties, including San Diego County, now applies statewide, officials said.

Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops.

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