Starting today, places of worship in DC can have 25 percent capacity or 250 people at their services, whichever number is smaller, per an order from Mayor Muriel Bowser. The change is likely in response to a recent suit from the Archdiocese of Washington, which argued churches should be treated the same as restaurants in terms of capacity restrictions.
The suit argued that the previous 50-person cap on attendance at religious services failed to take into account the sheer size of some of the city’s houses of worship. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, for example, is large enough to hold the Statue of Liberty. And, based on data released by the city, there have been just two Covid outbreaks at houses of worship, compared to 21 outbreaks in restaurants.
The change will be a welcome one to churches that are likely seeing an increase of interested worshippers for Christmas services. All houses of worship conducting in-person services are required to have congregants register for services ahead of time to ensure capacity limits and aid with contact tracing if necessary.