Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that masks will be required in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a COVID-19 vaccine requirement. As the holidays approach, many crowds will gather indoors from shopping to in-person worship services.
On Friday night, many parishioners inside the Immaculate Conception Church in Queens were already wearing masks.
"Our rule here in the parish is if you’re fully vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask,” Monsignor Fernando Ferrarese told NY1. “You are welcome to wear a mask, but if you are not vaccinated, you must wear masks."
When asked if the the church will simply rely on the honor system to check for vaccination statuses, Monsignor Ferrarese said the house of worship will comply with the dioceses’ orders, though much of the church already depends upon trust.
“We rely on their word, our whole system is based on honesty and truth and so we trust our parishioners,” Monsignor Ferrarese explained.
In a statement, the Brooklyn Diocese, which covers Queens as well, said it would comply with the governor's order and that it would be giving information to pastors to announce at this weekend's masses.
“I think it’s very important that all the churches do the same thing, so we will be very compliant,” Monsignor Ferrarese said.
During the pandemic, the diocese successfully sued former Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his order limiting attendance inside houses of worship that were in areas with high infection rates.
One parishioner from Brooklyn who stopped by Immaculate Conception said she would not want her COVID vaccination status checked.
“I think I may have not come in the door if they had stopped me and asked me for my vaccination card,” Laura Age said, who added that she is vaccinated against COVID-19. “I just came on a whim tonight, so I think everybody should be able to come in regardless — that’s just my my view.”
For those who feel the same way, instead of attending in-person mass, there’s a virtual option to take part in the service.
“We have four cameras throughout the church,” Monsignor Ferrarese said, though he prefers worshippers attend in person if possible.
He says the church is open for anyone who wants to come in to pray, complicating his task of making sure vaccine statuses are confirmed.