ALBANY, N.Y. — Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul says the state is working on ways to reopen places of worship safely and smartly in coordination with faith leaders across New York State.
Starting Thursday, religious gatherings of up to 10 people can be held in across New York State. Governor Andrew Cuomo says strict social distancing measures will be enforced and participants must wear masks.
The governor says that drive-in and parking lot services will also be allowed.
Cuomo announced Wednesday morning that New York State is convening the Interfaith Advisory Council to discuss proposals to safely bring back religious services. The governor says the advisory council has representatives from all different religious across the state. Reverend Darius Pridgen, leader of Buffalo's True Bethel Baptist Church tells 2 On Your Side he's been named by Governor Cuomo as a member of that panel.
"I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible," Cuomo said. "As a former alter boy, I get it. I think even 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."
As the state reopens the governor says what will happen next will be a consequence of our actions. Cuomo says if people are smart and responsible then the infection rate will continue to stay low, but if New Yorkers become undisciplined, the infection rate will go back up. The governor says it all depends on what New Yorkers do.
Based on new data from New York City, the state is still seeing an increase in coronavirus cases among lower-income and predominantly minority neighborhoods. In result, the governor is directing all local governments to test in low-income communities and develop outreach programs in these areas.
Cuomo says these areas are where new cases, deaths and hospitalizations are coming from.