Churches are able to open up Thursday

ALBANY — Limited religious gatherings are set to start tomorrow as the state slowly continues to reopen.

Religious gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed statewide where strict social distancing measures are enforced and all participants must wear masks. Drive-in and church parking lot services will also be allowed.

The state will be convening an interfaith advisory council to discuss proposals to safely bring religious services back.

“I think even at this time of stress, and when people are so anxious and confused, those religious ceremonies can be very comforting, but we need to find out how to do it, and how to do it safely and smartly,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his Wednesday update. “The last thing we want is a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.”

People know from the state’s first “hot spot” in New Rochelle, Westchester County, that religious ceremonies — which by definition involve gatherings — can prove dangerous, he said. “The committee will help develop a way to restart religious ceremonies safely and intelligently.”

In the meantime, Cuomo said nationally and in New York, lower income neighborhoods and predominately-minority neighborhoods are suffering the most from the pandemic.

“The data shows not just a high positive, not just a high number of people had the positive, but the spread is continuing in those communities and that’s where the new cases are coming from,” he said.

The next step, Cuomo said, is to develop targeted strategies for the highly impacted communities. The next steps are working to stop community spread in those neighborhoods by providing PPE, hand sanitizer, explaining social distancing and its importance, and providing public health and education.

“What we’re seeing in New York City is going to be true across the state,” he said.

Cuomo is directing all local governments to test low-income communities and develop outreach programs.

Hospitalizations and number of new cases are down. On Tuesday, there were 112 deaths — 82 in hospitals and 30 in nursing homes.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1