Stanislaus County was approved for county variance on May 20 following the county’s submission of a second application on May 19. 

The county’s first application was rejected due to not being able to meet requirements requiring the county to exhibit no COVID-19 deaths and no more than one case per 10,000 residents in 14 days before the application. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced revised requirements on May 18 after receiving negative feedback from county officials frustrated by the initial reopening guidelines.

“Bottom line is people can go at their own pace. We are empowering our local directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions better than any of us,” Gov. Newsom said during a press conference on May 18.

Newsom announced on May 25 the statewide reopening of places of worship for religious services and in-store retail shopping with modifications. He then announced that hair salons and barbershops were permitted to reopen on May 26.

Businesses such as curb-side retail, manufacturers, logistics, childcare for those outside the essential workforce, office-based businesses, car washes, pet grooming, landscape gardening, outdoor museums, open gallery spaces and other public spaces with modifications were already approved to open as part of the early Stage 2 reopening plan in California. 

Businesses that are now permitted to open in expanded Stage 2 are retail stores, including shopping malls and swap meets, dine-in restaurants, barbers, hair salons and schools with modifications. 

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto reopened to the public on May 22 after over two months of being closed. 

State guidelines require these general standards before reopening. 

  • Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan

  • Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them

  • Implement individual control measures and screenings

  • Implement disinfecting protocols

  • Implement physical distancing guidelines

More specific information on industry guidance from the state at

Stanislaus County has also released a guidance resource called Good 2 Go Stanislaus.

Places of worship guidelines

Gov. Newsom announced 13 pages of guidelines for places of worship, providers of religious services and cultural ceremonies on Monday. 

The announcement does not obligate places of worship to resume in-person activity. The state still strongly recommended that places of worship continue to provide remote services for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Each county is permitted to decide when to allow in-person services to resume. 

Places of worship can reopen with a limited attendance of 25 percent of building capacity or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower. This limitation will be in effect for the first 21 days of a county public health department’s approval of religious services and cultural ceremonies activities at places of worship within their jurisdictions. 

After the 21 days, the California Department of Public Health and County Departments of Public Health will review and assess the impact of these limits on public health and provide further direction as part of the reopening process.

Physical distancing guidelines for places of worship

The state released a list of modifications to places of worship. Here is the complete list of recommendations.

  • Places of worship should continue to provide services through alternative methods (such as via internet live and/or recorded streaming, telephone, drive-in, etc.) whenever possible. 

  • Consider holding in-person meetings and providing in-person services outside whenever possible. 

  • Implement measures to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between workers, staff, congregants/visitors, etc. This can include the use of physical partitions or visual cues (e.g., floor or pew markings or signs to indicate where people should sit and stand). Reconfigure seating and standing areas to maintain physical distancing of six feet or more between congregants/visitors from different households. Consider limiting seating to alternate rows. Members of the same household may be seated together but should maintain at least six feet of distance from other households. 

  • Consider dedicating staff to help people maintain distances during activities.

  • Shorten services to limit the length of time congregants/visitors spend at facilities whenever possible. This could include limiting speeches, asking congregants/visitors to put on garments at home before arrival, etc. 

  • Close places of worship for visitation outside of scheduled services, meetings, etc., whenever possible. 

  • Consider implementing a reservation system to limit the number of congregants/visitors attending facilities at a time. This can include the use of digital platforms or other types of tools.

  • Encourage congregants/visitors to meet with the same group, particularly when services meet frequently and/or require a certain number of people to be present. This can reduce the spread of transmission by minimizing the number of different individuals who come into close contact with each other.

  • Consider offering additional meeting times (per day or per week) so that fewer guests attend meetings and services at one time. Clean meeting areas between each use, as described in this guidance.

  • Discontinue large gatherings that encourage congregants/visitors to travel and break physical distances during activities, such as concerts, large holiday and life event celebrations and remembrances.

  • Children should remain in the care of those in their household unit and not interact with children of other parties at any time while visiting facilities. Close play areas and discontinue activities and services for children where physical distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained. 

  • Encourage congregants/visitors to physically distance themselves from others outside their household, avoid touching surfaces, and to leave the facility if they do not feel well.

  • Consider limiting touching for religious and/or cultural purposes, such as holding hands, to members of the same household.

  • Dedicate staff to direct guests to meeting rooms upon entry to places of worship rather than congregating in lobbies or common areas. Consider using ushers to help people find places to sit and stand that are at least six feet apart from other guests/household groups. Ask congregants/visitors to arrive and leave in a single group to minimize the crossflow of people. Welcome and dismiss congregants/visitors from altars, podiums, meeting rooms, etc. in an orderly way to maintain physical distancing and minimize crossflow of traffic, to the extent possible.

  • Prop or hold doors open during peak periods when congregants/visitors are entering and exiting facilities, if possible, and in accordance with security and safety protocols. 

  • Close or restrict common areas, such as break rooms, kitchenettes, foyers, etc. where people are likely to congregate and interact. Consider installing barriers or increase the physical distance between tables/seating when there is the continued use of these areas. 

  • Turn off public drinking water fountains and place signs informing congregants/visitors they are inoperable. 

  • Remove from service or find low-community touch alternatives for communal/religious water containers such as fonts, sinks, and vessels. Empty and change the water between uses. Where there is a possibility of contaminant splash, staff, congregants, visitors, etc., are strongly encouraged to use equipment to protect the eyes, nose, and mouth using a combination of face coverings, protective glasses, and/or face shields. Reusable protective equipment such as shields and glasses should be properly disinfected between uses.

  • When washing is a required activity, modify practices whenever possible to limit splashing and the need to clean and disinfect washing facilities. Encourage necessary washing to be performed at home prior to entering a facility, if possible. 

  • Reconfigure podiums and speaker areas, office spaces, meeting rooms, conference rooms, etc., to allow for at least six feet between people. Face coverings are strongly recommended at all times for congregants/visitors and staff, especially when a physical distance of at least six feet is not possible.

  • Establish directional hallways and passageways for foot traffic, if possible, and designate separate routes for entry and exit into meeting rooms, offices, etc., to help maintain physical distancing and lessen the instances of people closely passing each other.

  • Limit the number of individuals riding in an elevator and ensure the use of face coverings. Post signage regarding these policies.

  • Utilize practices, when feasible and necessary, to limit the number of staff and congregants/visitors in office, meeting spaces, etc., at one time. This may include scheduling (e.g. staggering start/end times), establishing alternating days for onsite reporting, returning to places of worship in phases, or continued use of telework when feasible. 

  • Consider offering workers and volunteers who request modified duties options that minimize their contact with congregants/visitors and other staff (e.g., office duties rather than working as an usher or managing administrative needs through telework). 

  • Stagger staff breaks, in compliance with wage and hour regulations, to maintain physical distancing protocols. 

  • Discontinue nonessential travel and encourage distance meetings via phone and internet.

  • Close self-service item selection such as pamphlet displays and bookshelves and provide these items to congregants/visitors individually as necessary. Consider delivering items and information electronically.

  • Consider limiting the number of people that use the restroom at one time to allow for physical distancing. 

  • Discourage staff, congregants, visitors, etc., from engaging in handshakes, hugs, and similar greetings that break physical distance. Take reasonable measures to remind people to wave or use other greetings.

  • Reconfigure parking lots to limit congregation points and ensure proper separation (e.g., closing every other space). If performing drive-in services, ensure vehicle windows and doors are closed if six feet of distance is not possible between vehicles. 

  • Continue to support non-in person attendance of services and other related activities by those who are vulnerable to COVID19, including older adults and those with co-morbidities.

Additional considerations for places of worship

The guidelines also offer more considerations for places of worship. 

  • Discontinue offering self-service food and beverages. Do not hold potlucks or similar family-style eating and drinking events that increase the risk of cross-contamination. If food and beverages must be served, provide items in single-serve, disposable containers whenever possible. Employees or volunteers serving food should wash their hands frequently and wear disposable gloves and face coverings. 

  • Strongly consider discontinuing singing, group recitation, and other practices and performances where there is an increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets. Modify practices such as limiting the number of people reciting or singing, ensuring physical distancing greater than six feet between people, or opt to celebrate these practices outside with physical distancing, etc., if these practices cannot be discontinued. 

  • Consider modifying practices that are specific to particular faith traditions that might encourage the spread of COVID-19. Examples are discontinuing kissing of ritual objects, allowing rites to be performed by fewer people, avoiding the use of a common cup, offering communion in hand instead of on the tongue, providing pre-packed communion items on chairs prior to service, etc., in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Restrictions for funerals

  • Consider reduced visitor capacity and stagger visitation times at funerals, wakes, etc., if possible. Follow all cleaning and disinfection measures as described in this guidance. Whenever possible, remind visitors to maintain physical distance from each other, from staff and volunteers, and from the deceased. 

  • Consider modifying religious or cultural practices when washing or shrouding bodies of those who have died from COVID-19, in accordance with guidance from CDPHand the CDC. If washing the body or shrouding are important religious or cultural practices, work with funeral home staff and families to reduce exposure as much as possible. All people participating in these activities must wear disposable gloves, and if there will be splashing of fluids, people must use additional protective equipment, including protection for the eyes, nose, and mouth, such as face shields. 

  • Consult and comply with local guidance regarding limits on gathering sizes, travel, holding funerals for those who died from COVID-19, etc. 

  • Consider other recommendations and modifications of services related to places of worship outlined above, as applicable for funeral services.

Hair salons and barbershops

Hair salons and barbershops will also have to implement various safety measures to reopen. 

Employers will have to provide screenings for temperatures and symptoms for all workers at the beginning of their shift and any vendors, contractors, or other workers entering the establishment. Employers are advised that the screening process avoids close contact with workers to the best extent possible. Workers and screeners are advised to wear face masks. 

Customers are also to be screened, and any customer exhibiting symptoms should be asked to reschedule. Workers and customers must use face covering during the haircut and any other close contact hair services. 

All workers are to be provided personal protection equipment, including eye protection and gloves. 

Businesses are expected to display a set of guidelines for customers that is to be used as a condition to enter the establishment. The guidelines must include the requirement to wear face coverings, use hand sanitizer and physical distance from other customers. The guidelines need to be posted in clearly visible locations. 

Hair salons and barbershops are also being asked to clean and disinfect all equipment before and after each customer. All surfaces are to be cleaned before opening. All non-electrical tools are to be cleaned with soap and water, drying the tools, and immersing them in EPA registered disinfectant. 

There are to be no amenities provided by the business such as magazines, books, coffee or water. These items must be removed from the reception area. 

Shops must also enforce physical distancing guidelines such as offering appointment based service and stagger appointments to reduce congestion within the workplace. Employees are not to see multiple customers at once. 

If possible, businesses are encouraged to use contactless payment and the use of credit cards in favor of cash or check. If cash or check is to be used, customers are asked to come prepared with the exact amount to minimize exchanges between customers and the stylists or barber. 

A comprehensive list of requirements can be found by visiting

Still not permitted to reopen

Businesses and services still not permitted to reopen in Stage 2 are personal services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios, indoor museums, kids museums, community centers, public pools, nightclubs, concert venues, live audience sports, festivals, theme parks, hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism and higher education. 

These services have been classified as part of Stage 3 of the California reopening plan. 

A timeline for when these services can resume is still unclear.

PI reporter

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