New state rules go into effect today prohibiting indoor worship services. The rules apply to religious institutions in Berkeley.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the ban on Monday, citing the alarming rise in the number of people getting COVID-19 and an increase in hospitalizations. Berkeley has seen a spike too. To date, 278 residents have been recorded as having caught COVID-19. One has died. Last week, 47 people came down with the virus after attending some Greek parties at UC Berkeley. The virus also swept through a South Berkeley nursing home, killing one resident.

On June 12, Berkeley and the state loosened its restrictions on indoor services and allowed churches, mosques and synagogues to hold gatherings of up to 100 people, or gatherings that filled less than 25% of a building’s capacity, whichever was lower.

Not all houses of worship will be deeply impacted by the new ban as many had already pivoted to online religious services. But a few have been holding indoor services or meetings. Pastor Michael McBride of The Way said his church has been holding virtual services since March. He has spoken with other religious leaders who are offering in-person services to try and persuade them to stop as services can be “super-spreader” events. “We certainly have been in conversation with Black faith leaders and Catholic loved ones feeling the need to offer the sacrament and meet in person,” he said. “We have encouraged them to prioritize the health of people.”

Avatar photo

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...