Florida Governor Exempts Religious Services From Stay-At-Home Order

Florida Governor Exempts Religious Services From Stay-At-Home Order

Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to downplay the threat of the coronavirus by treating in-person church services as “essential.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) undercut his own stay-at-home order by exempting religious services from that necessary step to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

DeSantis issued the statewide order Wednesday afternoon, telling Floridians to “limit movements and personal interactions outside the house” to only those deemed “essential.” The order followed mounting pressure on DeSantis to do something after he’d said days earlier that he was waiting for the White House coronavirus task force to recommend such an order. In March, DeSantis had resisted calls to shut down beaches as college students from across the country gathered in Florida for spring break.

 

If the governor had finally decided to take the threat seriously, his order carved out a large exception for religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and other houses of worship, which are deemed to be “essential business” and thus exempt from the stay-at-home mandate.

 

Florida has nearly 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The actual number of cases in the state and across the country is likely much higher than reported, but a lack of testing and a White House that has repeatedly downplayed the threat have led to insufficient data on just how many people are infected.

 

DeSantis’ labeling of in-person church services as essential could provide a loophole for Florida megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, who was charged with two misdemeanors on Monday after he held services despite a county order not to.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued a similar stay-at-home order allowing church services in his state to continue.

 

The negative effects of gathering for religious services during a pandemic have already been demonstrated by a French megachurch that became a hotspot for the spread of the coronavirus.

 

“The tipping point was the the evangelical gathering in Mulhouse,” France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper. “The epidemic spread across the country from the gathering.”

Florida governor advises against ‘packed’ religious gatherings

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is advising against attending “packed” religious gatherings ahead of the Christian and Jewish holidays this month, despite exempting such gatherings from the state’s stay-at-home order.

“We want people during this time to be spiritually together, but to remain socially distant,” DeSantis said during a roundtable event Monday.

“Please keep God close, but please keep COVID-19 away,” he added.

DeSantis’s comments follow a stay-at-home order he issued last week that made exemptions for “essential” activities including attending religious services in churches, synagogues and houses of worship.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping at least six feet away from others when in public and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.

DeSantis acknowledged Monday, however, that large gatherings, like a funeral that took place recently in Georgia, have the potential to become a “super spreader.”

He noted that some churches have led services online or outdoors where people stay in their cars.

DeSantis maintained last week that there’s no reason churches can’t continue to hold services as long as people are “spread out far enough.”

Florida is shaping up to be a hotspot for the coronavirus, with 12,342 cases, including 220 deaths, as of Monday afternoon. South Florida has been the hardest, with more than 4,000 cases in Miami-Dade County.

 

 

 

 

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