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L.A. county reverses ban, allows churches to hold indoor services as California struggles to contain Covid surge

The change was in response to the Supreme Court ordering lower courts in the state to reconsider restrictions on church services.

Places of worship in Los Angeles County can resume services inside their buildings after public health officials modified an order that previously banned indoor church gatherings.

The county's Department of Public Health Officer released the revised order on Saturday, which allows churches to host indoor and outdoor services "provided that strict physical distancing is followed, which requires a minimum of six feet between persons from different households."

"Face coverings or masks that cover both the nose and mouth must be worn at all times while on site," the order states.

The change was in response to the Supreme Court ordering lower courts in the state to reconsider restrictions on church services.

Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, based in Pasadena, had filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom's restrictions, saying they violated their First Amendment “free exercise” protection.

In a statement, the church accused the governor of "criminalizing in-person worship."

"It is the goal of Harvest Rock Church to protect the first amendment constitutional rights of the church and all people, while taking a specific stand against the misclassification of the worship of God as non-essential during this time of national unrest, economic strife, and physical ailment," the church said in its statement.

Harvest Rock celebrated the revised order in a Facebook post on Sunday.

"GOOD NEWS!! LA County lifts the ban on indoor worship. Family, thank you for standing with us this year, through everything! Thank you for your words of encouragement, support and for your prayers. 2020 was not wasted!"

Despite the county allowing indoor services, public health officials still urged churches to host them outdoors, citing an "unprecedented surge" in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

"Public Health strongly recommends that persons only attend faith-based services outdoors or remotely," it states. "The recommendations in this protocol are intended to lower the risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees, but they will not eliminate that risk."

Los Angeles County is averaging 13,000 new infections each day and is already out of beds in the intensive care units at hospitals.

Dr. Brad Spellberg, the chief medical officer at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, said the hospitals are "getting crushed."

"I'm not going to sugarcoat this," he told NBC News.

As of Monday, California has had more than 1.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 22,000 deaths, according to the public health department.