Changes to religious gathering rules in NY take effect Thursday

Around New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — After recently announcing that houses of worship fall under Phase Four of New York’s reopening schedule, Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave another update on Wednesday.

Starting Thursday, religious gatherings of 10 people or less may occur, as long as participants wear masks and practice proper social distancing measures.

Drive-in and parking lot services will also be allowed starting Thursday.

Western New York was permitted to begin Phase One on Tuesday, and the Finger Lakes region started the Friday before that.

Sen. Chris Jacobs recently called on the Governor to move places of worship into Phase One of the state’s reopening plan.

“Ours is a country founded in faith, a fact reinforced every time we recite the pledge of allegiance,” Jacobs said. “Recognizing the important role people’s faith played in helping them carry on through the pandemic, the letter went on to say “It is difficult to conceive that our society could embark on any return to normalcy that does not include allowing one to practice their faith in traditional settings.”

Jacobs believes these facilities could be reopened with limited occupancy, use of masks and social distancing.

“It is difficult to conceive that the rights of people to attend services should be preceded by the rights of people who want to purchase liquor, get a haircut or go to a restaurant,” Jacobs wrote to Cuomo.

He concluded his letter by saying “It is my sincere hope that by immediately adding places of worship as eligible businesses under phase one, people will have the opportunity to begin receiving the comfort of attending services as soon as this weekend.”

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.

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