What the end of the NY state mask mandate means for local churches
On Feb. 15, NYS Commissioner of Health extended the Hero Act through March 17, 2022. Click here to read more.
Governor Hochul lifted the mask mandate for all vaccinated and unvaccinated persons effective Feb. 10. This means businesses are no longer required to mandate that all persons in their facilities wear face masks. Pastors and other local church leaders are now asking what this means for their churches, particularly as it relates to worship and other gatherings. Here are some guidelines which may be helpful in making this decision:
- Congregations are free to add safety requirements for entering buildings and participating in programs which exceed federal, state, and local requirements.
- Under the NYS Hero Act, all employers, including local churches, were required to put in place an airborne infectious disease plan to protect employees. Back in September of last year, Governor Hochul activated the plan and has extended the duration until March 17. Hero Act plans follow state guidance and mandates with respect to face coverings for employees. Consistent with the most recent guidance from the New York State Department of Health for HERO Act plans, face coverings are recommended, but not required, for church staff members. It is also recommended that face coverings continue to be worn by unvaccinated staff members, including those with exemptions, in accordance with federal CDC guidance. Churches should consider updating their HERO Act plans consistent with this updated guidance.
- Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) masking guidelines recommend all unvaccinated persons and those who are immuno-compromised wear face masks. The CDC further recommends vaccinated persons “wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
- When deciding about whether or not to require masking in the congregation, consideration should be given to the infection rate in the county as well as rates of vaccination among the different segments of the congregation. For example, the current vaccination rate among children ages 5-11 is only 30%.