As states across the country remain in varying stages of reopening from coronavirus-related shutdowns, President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to see houses of worship among those “essential” businesses allowed to gradually resume operations.
Days after Trump issued a public statement to that effect, California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his plan to allow churches to reopen in stages, as reported by Fox News.
The governor released guidelines and requirements for houses of worship across the state to follow as they are allowed to hold in-person services again, pending final approval from county health agencies.
“They’re going to have to call me”
Trump addressed the issue during a White House press briefing on Friday, forcefully demanding that the nation’s governors make accommodations for worshippers anxious to congregate under one roof.
“I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now,” he said. “If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call.”
The president went on to say that state leaders “need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend,” asserting that he would “override the governors” if they refused.
“In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump concluded.
Newsom is now allowing for such religious gatherings, though with restrictions such as occupancy limited at 25% of a church’s normal capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller.
A three-week trial period
Additional safeguards include mandatory physical distancing, protocols for cleaning and disinfecting, and rules regarding shared items like communion elements and offering plates. While individuals from the same household will be permitted to sit together under the governor’s plan, ample space between those small groups will be required.
After three weeks, the California Department of Health will reassess the guidelines and their impact on the state’s overall coronavirus response. This span was reportedly chosen to allow individual houses of worship to make necessary preparations and allow a two-week incubation period to determine whether any significant outbreaks had occurred.
Trump and Newsom clashed on another coronavirus-related topic this week, with the president complaining on Tuesday about the governor’s mail-in voting plan.
It was unclear whether Newsom’s decision on reopening churches was influenced by evidence or pressure from his constituents and the White House, but worshippers across the state are sure to find a reason to celebrate as they head back to church this weekend.