A stunning number of COVID-19 cases have been linked to 40 religious events as churches push to reopen
Eager to maintain his evangelical base, Donald Trump has declared churches essential and essentially given them permission to be as irresponsible about COVID-19 as they want to be. While some governors have struggled to keep churches from spreading the virus, churches have become centers of coronavirus spread in some communities.
“More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities,” The New York Times reports.
That includes a Texas church where the pastor told people they could resume hugging a few weeks into reopening. He became one of 50 people at the church to test positive.
“In retrospect, I would have said: Just maintain that distance,” he told the Times. “In a spiritual environment we had people who were away from fellowship for so long and in isolation. They were hurting. We just got to a point where we thought, we need to have normal church services.” Obviously the virus showed how little it cares about people’s need for normal church services, with hugging.
Even churches that have made serious efforts to be responsible have seen cases. “Our churches have followed protocols—masks, go in one door and out the other, social distancing,” a Louisiana United Methodist Church bishop told the Times. “And still people have tested positive.”
In New York City, one church that could be reopening after 60 of its congregants died is instead waiting, and researching what it can do safely. “For a church that has lost so many people, it would be a moral violation to go ahead and reopen right now,” pastor Jared Stahler of Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church told the Associated Press. “We would give people a false sense of comfort.”
The church continues to focus on online services and providing assistance to its parishioners. ”Saint Peter’s Church has been a holy example of how our buildings may be closed, but our church has always been open,” said Bishop Paul Egensteiner. It’s an example more churches should be following.