Religious communities grateful for soon-to-be-lifted capacity restrictions

Charles Molineaux
Updated: May 03, 2021 11:11 PM
Created: May 03, 2021 10:55 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The news of the state’s latest plan to loosen up coronavirus restrictions is bringing joy and praise for local religious communities.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that in two weeks, almost all capacity restrictions will be lifted on public places like businesses, shops, and places of worship.

There will still be guidelines on social distancing, but a way to work around them. 

"There is tremendous excitement about reconvening,” exclaimed Rabbi Debbi Till at Temple Sinai synagogue.

Members of Temple Sinai have been celebrating the news that they're cleared for much bigger gatherings.

"So, today [Monday], we announce a major reopening of New York State on May 19,” the governor declared during a briefing. "Most capacity restrictions will end across the tri-state area."

Cuomo said the next phase of reopening will eliminate capacity restrictions on places like retail stores, gyms barbershops, museums, and places of worship.

Tabassam Javed at Rochester’s Islamic Center says his members have been suffering through a "spiritual drought."

"All the hugs and embraces are gone,” he sighed. “All the handshakes are gone and all the hanging out." 

Cuomo's reopening will have limits, no restrictions on the percentage of capacity but public spaces still must stick to the CDC's guidelines for 6 feet of social distancing between people. There is one big exception, places that require people to be fully COVID vaccinated or to prove they've tested negative for the virus.

"If you have vaccinated people or people who took a test, you have an additional capacity. We are working through that now,” Cuomo explained.

Temple Sinai is now planning whether, or how, to incorporate a testing or vaccine requirement into its plans.

"Our COVID task force, our committee is working on all those different levels,” Rabbi Till said. “What will be the requirements for more people to be back together in person and what those numbers look like?”

Till says her congregation is thrilled to open right up but will opt for a slow, careful, reopening.

“That’s really been what has kept us going,” she said, “is being careful and hopeful and steady, and steady.”

In his comments Monday, the governor said exactly how measures like requiring vaccines or test results will be incorporated is still a work in progress.


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