How to reopen a synagogue: State lays out state-by-step guidelines for in-person worship

A CDC illustration of the coronavirus

(This is a revised version of an earlier story.)

Gov. Andy Beshear has rolled out a set of guidelines for safely reopening houses of worship in Kentucky.
But the 24-point plan, which delineates rules for social distancing, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning, disinfecting, training and safety, will have little immediate effect on Louisville synagogues, all of which have said they definitely or likely will not reopen for the time being. Most have reported increased attendance for their virtual services.
Some of the rules don’t currently apply to synagogues. For instance, none in Louisville are offering drive-in worship.
Other rules could directly affect them should decide to reopen, such as the suggested limits on singing, spacing out family units in sanctuaries and the behavior of “greeters” at the entrances the buildings.
But the number one guideline remains “to the greatest extent practicable,” continue holding “alternative,” or virtual, services.
The wording for most of the guidelines suggests they are little more than suggestions, using the word “should.” A few, though, such as the guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting the worship spaces and the one-person-at-a-time rule in rest rooms, use the word “must.”
It’s not clear whether the guidelines that “must” be done would or could be enforced. “Most of the guidelines are permissive ‘best practices,’ except those guidelines dealing with social distancing, hygiene, cleaning, and disinfecting which are required,” Crystal Staley, communications director for Gov. Beshear, said in a statement. “This is consistent with recent, applicable court orders.”
Reopening houses of worship comes with risks. At Beshear’s Tuesday, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, citing a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, recounted the case when a 2½-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, one of whom was symptomatic, led to 32 confirmed and 20 probable cases of COVID-19 (87 percent of the choir). Three were hospitalized and two had died as of Tuesday.
The spread, according to Stack, citing the CDC, was “facilitated by close proximity” and “augmented by the act of singing.”
So far, there has been little community response to the plan, though Craig Goldstein, executive director of The Temple, sent a message to his congregation Tuesday saying a plan based on the governor’s guidelines is being developed.
“Please stay tuned for detailed information to come next month,” the message said.
Rabbi Robert Slosberg called the guidelines “well thought out and reasonable for those willing to take the risk of contracting COVID-19, but he said the larger risk is the safety of a gathering of 60 or more people.
“There are asymptomatic people, especially children, who are infected,” he said. “Is this a prudent risk?
The complete text of the guidelines can be found by clicking here.

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