President Trump on Friday said state governors should allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to immediately reopen.
In brief comments at the White House, Trump said houses of worship are “essential places that provide essential services.” Churches have faced restrictions for gatherings and ceremonies as public health officials worked to stop the spread of the virus. Some have chafed at the restrictions.
Trump said governors should allow the houses of worship to re-open “right now for this weekend,” and threatened that if they don’t, “I will override the governors,” he said, adding that “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”
It’s not clear what authority Trump has to override states who wish to keep houses of worship closed.
“These are places that hold our society together,” he said.
He said the CDC had released new guidance to help churches reopen, but did not provide details. He did not take questions from reporters.
White evangelicals have been among Trump’s strongest supporters.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said faith leaders considering reopening should be in touch with their local health departments to properly advise their congregants. She also said people with risk factors or comorbidities in communities with a high number of cases may consider staying away for now. “I know those houses of worship want to protect them … maybe they can’t go this week.”
“But there is way to social distance … in places of worship,” she said.
Birx also encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors during the Memorial Day weekend, including going to beaches, golfing or playing tennis, as long as 6-feet of social distancing is maintained.
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