US President Donald Trump said Friday he is designating houses of worship as “essential,” urging state governors to allow them to open “right now.”
Trump told reporters he is identifying them as “essential places that provide essential services.”
“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. That’s not right,” he said. “I am correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”
The impacts of Trump’s announcement are not immediately clear, as it is state governors that have authority on issuing laws concerning health crises.
“People are demanding to go to their church and synagogues, go to their mosque,” Trump said. “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend. If they don’t do it I will override the governors.”
Trump has repeatedly threatened to withhold federal funding from states that have cautiously approached their reopenings, and it is unclear how else he could compel governors to act on his demand.
Most governors have chosen to close houses of worship out of concern they would be a hotbed of virus activity with people placed in-doors in close proximity. But Trump said “ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned March 19 that two people who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms ended up infecting 35 of 92 people when they attended services at an Arkansas church. Three people died among that group.
But the infections did not stop at the church. The health authority said at least 26 other people were infected, and another person died from community spread caused by people who were infected at the church.
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