Declaring houses of worship 'essential' to American life during COVID-19 pandemic, US President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the governors to open all the religious places immediately. Trump alleged that some governors have considered liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but left places of faith.
“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 during his short briefing at the White House.
"Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship, it's not right. So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now", Trump said.
Trump further said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will issue guidance to houses of worship on safely reopening. According to reports, his top advisers reportedly blocked the CDC from issuing guidance earlier, worrying it was too prescriptive of religious institutions.
Meanwhile, the CDC issued fresh guidance on Friday after Trump's statement. The new guidelines recommended the churches to limit the size of gatherings, maintain distance between parishioners and to encourage all its members to wear face coverings. However, it also emphasised that the guidance is "non-binding" and "for consideration only".
"The information offered is non-binding public health guidance for consideration only; it is not meant to regulate or prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities in houses of worship. Any decision to modify specific religious rites, rituals, and services should be made by religious leaders", CDC stated in new guidelines.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, supporting the president's decision to reopen churches, said: "It is safe to reopen your churches if you do so in accordance with the guidelines which are laid out".
"Very stringent detail here about promoting hygiene practices. And there are five bullet points and cloth face coverings. If social distancing is not possible, it's recommended intensifying cleanings, promoting social distance. We lay them out meticulously", said McEnany.