Washington, D.C., increased the maximum number of people allowed inside houses of worship under coronavirus-related rules after the Washington Archdiocese filed a lawsuit two weeks before Christmas.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office issued a mayoral order late Wednesday that went into effect early Thursday. The order removes a 50-person limit on gatherings at houses of worship and says the facilities may host 250 people or operate at 25% capacity, whichever is fewer people.
The changes seek to achieve “parity” among rules that apply to different activities, including what’s allowed at restaurants, the mayor’s order says.
With Christmas approaching, the Washington Archdiocese filed a lawsuit Friday arguing that D.C.’s capacity limit violated religious freedom rights.
The archdiocese did not immediately respond to an inquiry.
The mayor’s order also sets new limits on capacity at restaurants, gyms, libraries and retail food sellers. Restaurants can only operate at 25% capacity or with a maximum of 250 people, whichever is fewer people. Similar rules apply to gyms.
The modifications went into effect though D.C. and the rest of the country is “currently confronting the worst surge of coronavirus cases yet,” the order says, with more Americans expected to die of COVID-19 every day for the next two months than were killed in the September 11 attacks.
The mayor’s full order can be found here.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.