Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions for Faith Leaders

Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions for Faith Leaders

This guidance is up to date as of September 28th, 2020. Guidance may chance as the situation evolves.

Please see NYC Department of Health and New York Forward Guidance for more:

Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.

Now that we are in Phase Four what does that mean for houses of worship?

  • Houses of worship/funeral homes may hold indoor religious services in one room with congregant/attendee capacity limited to 50% of the maximum occupancy for that room. Any attendees from different households must maintain 6 feet of physical distancing. If unable to do so, attendees must wear a face covering. 
  • For outdoor services, all attendees from different households must maintain physical distancing even when outside. There is no capacity restriction.
  • Physical distancing, both indoors and out, can be accomplished by setting up groups of chairs or marking sections for households to sit that are at least 6 feet away from the next group. Use tape or flags to mark off sections including signs to direct foot traffic for people filing in and out of the service location.
  • If singing is part of the service, individuals must remain at least 12 feet apart while singing and wear a face covering

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, follow these core 4 actions:

  • Stay home if sick. Only leave for essential medical care and or other essential errands.
  • Maintain 6 feet from other people.
  • Wear a face covering. You can be contagious without symptoms. Protect those around you by wearing a face covering. Anytime individuals come within 6 feet of each other, face coverings must be worn. It is strongly recommended to wear a face covering when indoors and around other people, even if 6 feet of distance can be maintained.
  • Houses of worship could consider providing free face coverings for attendees who forget one.
  • Keep your hands clean. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Shared items (such as prayer book) must be cleaned and disinfected between each use. Encourage attendees to bring their own religious items as available. 

Where can I apply to hold religious services on the street or sidewalk?

  • Houses of worship can apply for a single day or recurring (weekly) Religious Event permit through the Street Activity Permit Office. The application is here:

What is the approval process and deadlines?

  • All SAPO permit applications must also be approved by the local NYPD precinct and Community Board. The deadline to submit a permit is 60 days before the event, however some exceptions can be made.
  • Organizations must be indigenous or located in the community they wish to hold their event or services.
  • Events should be consecutive day in duration except for particular holidays that may require two days or longer(e.g. Sukkot).

Can I erect a tent or structure?

  • Tents over 400 gross sq.ft. or structures over 10 feet tall will also require a permit from DOB prior to approval from SAPO.

We have been holding worship, sermons, and prayers via livestream, may we continue to do so?

  • You are encouraged to continue to worship virtually.

Will houses of worship still be subject to enforcement? What does that look like?

  • The City will continue to enforce physical distancing rules and capacity restrictions within houses of worship, as it does in other places. This includes issuing summonses and closing facilities if necessary to protect public health.

We hold many functions in addition to religious services in our space, such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other community gatherings. Can any of these continue? Do they need to be outdoors?

  • Non-religious gatherings at house of worship are permitted as long you remain in compliance with maximum occupancy, physical distancing, and face covering requirements.
  • We strongly recommend moving to virtual meetings whenever possible.  
  • Post Prevent the Spread flyers in meetings or common spaces.

We are worried about the homeless populations we support. What is happening in homeless shelters?

  • The NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) remains committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers experiencing homelessness have access to safe and secure shelter placements. Together with our network of providers, DHS is working hard to protect shelter residents and our shelter staff during this time. DHS will continue to operate the single adult congregate shelter density reduction initiative. Any future changes will reflect public health guidance.
  • DHS continues to share best practices and guidance, and has taken steps to ensure resident safety, including:
    • Setting up isolation beds in commercial hotels for individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have tested positive. 
    • Sheltering single adults in the DHS shelter system in commercial hotels.
    • Securing new safe haven and stabilization beds to help clients experiencing homelessness on the streets and in the subways
    • Streamlining the process for families applying for shelter by eliminating in-person appointments and conducting interviews by phone.
    • Offering COVID-19 testing for clients at single adult shelters
    • Established a new process by which outreach providers can conduct intake in subway stations and provide a direct placement from the subway station.

Is the city facilitating any kind of financial relief for congregations whose income is going down but who want to continue to pay operations staff and stay afloat?

  • At this time, the city is not providing any financial help to specific to faith-based organizations. We will keep you updated about federal and other support for non-profit organizations.

Where can we find more information about each reopening phase?

Is there a method to report houses of worship not following the protocol?

  • If you witness houses of worship that are not in compliance with the State mandates, please call 311.