New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that congregations can return to their houses of worship this week in most of New York State, though New York City residents will have to wait a bit longer before they can do so as well.
In his daily press briefing on June 6, Cuomo said the state is “accelerating” the reopening of synagogues, churches and mosques, but at 25 percent capacity and only in areas that have entered “phase 2” of the state’s reopening from the coronavirus shutdown. Most of the state is already in this second or even third phase with the exception of all five boroughs of New York City, which recently entered “phase 1.”
Houses of worship like businesses and schools have been shuttered since Cuomo issued stay-at-home orders in mid-March.
Noting that people will be disappointed that more residents can’t attend services, the governor said, “ … 100 percent occupancy is mass gathering, and you really can’t do social distancing [with that]. … Be smart. It does not mean you go to a temple or a mosque and you sit right next to a person. You have to socially distance.”
He added that it is up to “our faith-based partners to come up with a smart strategy about the way to do this.”
Acknowledging that people are frustrated that New York City is excluded from the order, Rabbi Uriel Vigler, director of the Chabad Israel Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, said that when everyone does to come back together, “we look forward to welcoming our community back into our shul. We look forward to a delicious kiddush, and we look forward to the day that G-d eradicates the coronavirus from our midst.”