President Trump on Wednesday said his “single biggest disappointment” is that churches can’t meet during the COVID-19 pandemic and indicated it’s one reason he considered opening the country before Easter.
Although there is no federal policy governing churches meeting during the pandemic, the White House’s Coronavirus Guidelines urge Americans to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.” Vice President Mike Pence previously said the coronavirus is three times more contagious than the flu.
“My biggest disappointment is that churches can't meet in a time of need,” Trump said, adding that times of need traditionally are “a great time for churches to be together for people.”
“And yet if you do that ... you're really giving this invisible enemy a very big advantage,” Trump said.
Churches, he said, were “one of the reasons” he considered an Easter date for re-opening the country. Trump called it an “aspirational” date. Eventually, he extended the Coronavirus Guidelines until the end of April.
“It's very, very disappointing,” he said of churches being unable to meet, “but again, [if] you get too close and if somebody's sick, you're gonna probably catch it. So you have to be very careful.”
Some states, such as Washington, specifically prohibit churches from meeting. Others, such as Texas and Florida, specifically exempt churches from their coronavirus policy.
The guidelines suggest:
- Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
- If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
- If your children are sick, keep them at home. Contact your medical provider.
- If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home.
- If you are an older American, stay home and away from other people.
- If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition -- such as a significant heart or lung problem—stay home and away from other people.
- Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
- If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.
- Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
- Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts -- use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
- Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
- Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
- Practice good hygiene: wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface; avoid touching your face; sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow; disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Win McNamee/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.