Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced plans to loosen restrictions on religious gatherings in the state of Washington.

Inslee made the announcement today, five days after the President labeled houses of worship "essential", urging governors all across the nation to allow them to reopen.

Inslee announced that counties in Phase 1 of the Safe Start plan can hold outdoor religious services on a facility's property with up to 100 people. Those services should observe social distancing guidelines and people should wear face coverings.

Counties in Phase 2 can hold indoor services at 25% capacity, or with up to 50 people, whichever is smaller. In-home services or counseling can also take place with up to five people. Face coverings should be worn if in-home services include people from outside the household.

There was no mistaking the Governor's tone, however. He made a point to stress in-person religious gatherings are still discouraged in Washington as the state slowly loosens coronavirus restrictions, but if they “must be done in person,” there are new guidelines for doing so.

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While more specifics are expected over the next 48 hours or so, the governor's office did say, “With frequent reports of spiritual gatherings becoming COVID-19 ‘superspreader’ events in which a single service results in dozens of new COVID-19 infections, if possible, spiritual worship should continue to be done remotely or at a drive-in service."

Inslee also outlined the following safe facility requirements:
  • Follow social distancing
  • Use of face coverings
  • Employee education
  • Clean/sanitize frequently
  • Provide PPE to staff as appropriate

This is a developing story.