On Feb. 10, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily suspended its Monday order that required the County to allow indoor worship services, concluding that Santa Clara County’s prohibition on all indoor gatherings—including indoor worship services—can remain in place for the time being. The Court will make a final decision on this issue after further briefing and a hearing before the Court.
The Court’s decision follows the County’s request that the Court reconsider its Monday order in light of important differences between the County’s across-the-board rules on gatherings, and the State’s specific rules for worship services that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We are pleased that the Court has given us an opportunity to fully brief and argue the important legal and public health issues at stake in this case,” said James R. Williams, County Counsel. “The County’s rules prohibiting indoor gatherings are even-handed, designed to reduce the likelihood of super-spreader events and other transmission of COVID-19, and apply to all gatherings, regardless of their purpose. They are therefore fundamentally different from the State rules specific to places of worship that were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. We understand the deep desire to return to indoor worship services, but COVID-19 cases remain high and indoor gatherings pose a serious risk at this time. We are grateful for the leadership of the vast majority of religious institutions in our community that have continued to safely worship outdoors or online.”
The risks associated with indoor gatherings are a top concern for public health officials around the country in light new variants. The U.K. variant, which is spreading rapidly in the U.S., is known to be more infectious than current strains. And with the discovery of both the U.K. and South African variants in our region, and vaccination efforts still in their early stages, it remains critical to follow the County’s risk-based public health orders and avoid activities that currently pose significant risk like indoor gatherings.