The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on February 13 backed Santa Clara County in California by allowing to continue to prohibit all indoor gatherings and denied a request from several churches to allow indoor worship services, which the local Hindu temple called “unfortunate.”
Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court had made an announcement that churches and houses of worship in California can resume indoor services with 25 percent capacity. However, now the district court has reversed the orders.
Santa Clara County, which had earlier refused to follow the Supreme Court ruling, on February 8 announced reluctantly indoor worship services may resume, though only at 20 percent of a facility’s capacity, subject to all the requirements for indoor gatherings in the county’s gatherings directive.
On February 10, a district court for the Northern District of California temporarily suspended its order that earlier allowed the County of Santa Clara indoor worship services.
The Santa Clara County Hindu temple, which was preparing for Saraswati Puja on February 16, now hopes to celebrate Maha Shivaratri on March 11.
“Unfortunately, we cannot allow puja indoors,” Acharya Krishna Kumar Pandey, founder and president of the Shiv Durga Temple in Sunnyvale, told indica News, and added: “Yes, it’s unfortunate.”
James R Williams, county counsel for Santa Clara, said through a press note: “Many in our community are eager to gather indoors together, including for indoor worship, but it is vitally important that we continue to keep our community safe and do everything we can bring the pandemic under control. We are grateful for the continued leadership of our faith community in the Covid-19 response. The vast majority of our faith community have been gathering outdoors or online so that they can worship safely and protect the broader community from serious illness and death. And our faith community continues to partner with the County to support vaccination, testing, and other critical efforts to get all of us through to the other side of this pandemic.”
According to the press note, the decision to not allow indoor worship is due to UK variant of the novel coronavirus, which is spreading rapidly in the US. There is also a South African variant in this region.
Santa Clara announced February 14 that more than half of county residents aged 75 and older have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Vaccine data from the California Department of Public Health’s California Immunization Registry (CAIR2) also show that 43.7 percent of county residents aged 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 232,761 total residents now partially or fully vaccinated.