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Donald Trump says houses of worship ‘essential’ as CDC issues guidelines for their reopening

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

President Donald Trump wants states to reopen religious institutions for services. On Friday, the POTUS announced that houses of worship are essential and are calling to on governors to allow them to reopen for service.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but have left out churches and houses of worship,” Donald Trump said in a press briefing on Friday, according to CNN. “It's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential”

Trump urged governors to allow churches and other places of worship to resume their operations. He even threatened that he may “override” governors for states that do not follow federal recommendations.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now this weekend,” Trump said. “If they don't do it, I will override the governors.”

However, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx toned down the President’s message later in the briefing by implying that the decision to reopen religious services is at the discretion of the states’ religious leaders and governors.

“I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health department so they can communicate to their congregants,” Brix explained. “Certainly, people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know those houses of worship want to protect them.”

Birx also suggested that, depending on the state of coronavirus infections in their area, states might opt to postpone reopening for a bit. “Maybe they can't go this week if there's high numbers of Covid cases,” she added. “Maybe they wait another week. But there is a way to social distance ... in places of worship.”

In line with Donald Trump’s push to reopen churches, the CDC also reissued new guidelines. “For many faith traditions, gathering together for worship is at the heart of what it means to be a community of faith,” the CDC said. “But as Americans are now aware, gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19 during this public health emergency.”

The guidelines specifically mentioned limiting the sharing of religious objects to minimize the risk of transmission. “Consistent with the community's faith tradition, consider temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects that cannot be easily cleaned between persons, such as worship aids, prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, religious texts and other bulletins, books, shared cups, or other items received, passed or shared among congregants as part of services,” it added.

The CDC also suggested putting markers in place to make sure that social distancing is observed. “Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or walkways and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and congregants remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times as needed,” the agency said in the guidelines.

Physical contact and buffet-style eating are also discouraged. “Consider whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging, or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community,” the guidelines stated. “If food is offered at any event, consider pre-packaged options, and avoid buffet or family-style meals if possible.”

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