Synagogues in New York will be able to hold prayer quorums starting Thursday and organize small services for the Shavuot holiday next week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday.
Religious ceremonies involving up to 10 people will be permitted across the state with “strict social distancing guidelines”.
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Cuomo, who said he has been discussing the issue with religious communities, added the New York has “asked them to consider drive in and parking lot services for religious ceremonies”.
“I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible,” the governor said. “At this time of stress and when people are so anxious and so confused, I think those religious ceremonies can be very comforting but we need to find out how to do it, and do it safely and do it smartly.”
“The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected,” he continued.
“We know from New Rochelle, Westchester - the first hot spot - that religious ceremonies can be very dangerous,” Cuomo added, referring to the Young Israel Synagogue of New Rochelle, believed to have been an early infection epicenter after New York’s first coronavirus patient emerged from that community in March.
Wednesday marked the 81st day since New York State was put on pause. While upstate New York has begun the first phase of reopening, downstate New York, including New York City, remains closed. Cuomo said he is using a “data driven” approach while deciding on which sectors to reopen.
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As of Tuesday, New York registered 354,370 coronavirus cases, out of which 22,976 have died.