President Trump said Friday that he views churches and other places of worship as “essential” and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend, even as parts of the nation remain under blockade of the coronavirus.
“Today I am identifying houses of worship – churches, synagogues and mosques – as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said during a hasty press conference at the White House.
Despite the threat of further spread of the virus. Trump said, “Governors need to do the right thing and allow these important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend.” And he warned that if the governors do not comply with his request, he will “annul them”, although it is not clear what authority he has to do so.
The order comes when Trump has been pushing for the country to reopen as he tries to stop a freefall in the economy months before the presidential election. White evangelical Christians have been among the most loyal members of the president’s base, and the White House has been careful to address the concerns of religious communities in the course of the crisis, including holding numerous conference calls with them.
Following Trump’s announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines for communities of faith that include taking steps to limit the size of meetings and consider hosting outdoor services. or in large well-ventilated areas.
Public health agencies have generally advised people to avoid meetings of more than 10 people and have encouraged Americans to stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from others when possible. Some parts of the country remain under some version of confinement, including Washington, D.C.
Trump stressed the importance of churches in many communities and disagreed with other businesses and services that have been allowed to continue operating.
“Some governors have considered liquor stores and abortion clinics essential” but not churches, he said. “It is not correct. So I am correcting this injustice and calling essential houses of worship.”
“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people together,” he added.
Religious services in person have been vectors of transmission of the virus. A person who attended a religious service on Mother’s Day at a church in northern California who defied the governor’s orders not to reopen it, tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing more than 180 parishioners.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force on coronavirus, said leaders of religious communities should be in contact with their local health departments and can take steps to mitigate risks, including making sure that Those who are at high risk for serious complications remain protected.
“There is a way to work together to have social distancing and security for people, so that we decrease the amount of exposure someone would have to an asymptomatic,” said Birx.
A person familiar with the White House thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations said Trump had called the press conference, which was not on his public agenda, because he wanted to be the face of reopening of the church, knowing how well it would work with its base.
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