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Worship Services, Retail Making Slow Comeback

San Joaquin County officials have announced that places of worship in the county are able to reopen – effective as of Tuesday, May 26, provided they meet specific guidelines.

The directive from the county was the latest in a series of moves that are signaling the gradual reopening of businesses and services around the region.

“Restaurants and retail stores were able to open their doors to customers on Friday (May 22). Both have restrictions regarding social distancing and disinfecting,” explained Escalon City Manager Tammy Alcantor. “Capacity for restaurants and retail stores, are dependent on their available space to keep the social distancing for their customers.”

In a news release issued by the county health department on Tuesday, it indicated: “Effective immediately, all places of worship and providers of religious services and cultural ceremonies are permitted to operate in San Joaquin County. All places of worship must fully implement the guidance issued by California Department of Public Health yesterday. Modifications are required to keep Californians safe and limit the spread of COVID-19. Under the new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25 percent of a building’s capacity – or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower. The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages organizations to continue online services and activities, including protecting individuals who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.”

Officials added that, in three weeks, the Department of Public Health, in consultation with local departments of public health, will review and assess the impact of the religious services guidelines and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities. This 21-day interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen in addition to a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.

More information on this modification to the County Stay at Home Order is available at or go to the state’s COVID-19 guidance on the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance web page.

Residents of Escalon, meanwhile, had the opportunity on Friday for a ‘night out’ at the drive in – courtesy of a cooperative effort.

“The Drive-in movie went very well. There were approximately 55 cars that attended with an average of three to four people per vehicle,” noted Alcantor. “While the wind caused some concern for the screen, it all ended well.”

Alcantor said the movie night was definitely a community effort. Escalon Covenant Church allowed the use of their parking lot while Public Works trimmed the trees and assisted with set up and clean up.

Also, Escalon Trinity Church allowed the use of their projector, Escalon Youth Center provided the screen and Todd O’Neill assisted in getting the screen and equipment all set up with a team of high school students.

“The Police Department and Police Explorers were assisting with getting attendees parked and traffic,” added Alcantor. “All in all, it went better than I could have asked. We have already been asked on Facebook about doing the event again, and we are currently evaluating that.”

City officials are also preparing City Hall for reopening but that is still a couple of weeks away, Alcantor said, and they are evaluating future youth programs for later this year.

“We are also reviewing measures that would allow us to hold our soccer season this year, but do not think that we will be able to move forward with the open swim or swim lessons at the pool this summer,” she explained. “Soccer is dependent on what stage of re-opening we are in over the next few weeks.”