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article imageOp-Ed: CDC bows to Trump and issues watered-down guidance on reopening

By Karen Graham     May 22, 2020 in Politics
President Trump stepped into the culture wars again on Friday, taking the side of some religious leaders against governors who have moved slowly in reopening houses of worship amid the pandemic.
“Today I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogue, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Mr. Trump said at a hastily scheduled briefing at the White House on Friday according to the New York Times. , . “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.”
Trump went further, threatening to “override” the governors if they did not follow his order. “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.”
However, it was timed just so because the CDC issued a number of long-delayed guidelines with suggestions for steps that houses of worship can take to curb the spread of the virus.
Religious institutions should provide soap and hand sanitizer, encourage the use of cloth masks and clean their facilities daily if they want to open while coronavirus is still spreading, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in newly released guidance Friday.
US President Donald Trump  flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (R)  US Vice Pre...
US President Donald Trump, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar (R), US Vice President Mike Pence (L) and CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, holds a news conference on the COVID-19 outbreak
White House versus the CDC
Earlier this past week, the CDC published detailed guidelines on how to safely loosen coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders on its website after references to faith-based guidance were "stripped" from the final document, a senior CDC official told CNN.
Trump made a big deal out of his demanding the CDC issue the new guidelines while at a roundtable in Michigan on Thursday, before his tour of a Ford plant. "I said, 'You better put it out,' " Trump said.
“People want to be in their churches,” the president added. “It's wonderful to sit home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church or be with your friends and they want to have it open and I think that's going to be happening very shortly.”
The CDC's new guidelines are "voluntary" and the agency states "For many faith traditions, gathering together for worship is at the heart of what it means to be a community of faith. But as Americans are now aware, gatherings present a risk for increasing the spread of COVID-19 during this public health emergency.
Dr. Robert Redfield speaks on the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020.
Dr. Robert Redfield speaks on the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020.
The White House
The guidelines "encourage" people to wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing. They also recommend limiting the numbers of people at weddings, funerals, educational events, classes, and support groups.
"Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or walkways and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and congregants remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times as needed," the guidelines read.
But then, the CDC asks churches and families to "consider" whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging, or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community," adding, "If food is offered at any event, consider pre-packaged options, and avoid buffet or family-style meals if possible."
"Consider virtual activities and events in lieu of in-person youth group meetings and religious education classes, as feasible," it suggests, urging religious institutions to "continue to provide congregants with spiritual and emotional care and counseling on a flexible or virtual basis or refer them to other sources for counseling and support if necessary."
A health worker wearing protective gear sits on an ambulance next to the body of a COVID-19 victim b...
A health worker wearing protective gear sits on an ambulance next to the body of a COVID-19 victim before burial at a graveyard in New Delhi
People are literally dying
All this is going on even as the death toll from the coronavirus reaches 95, 800 in this country, and 17 states that have reopened are showing sharp increases in the number of new cases being recorded. This hasn’t stopped Trump from casting the issue in political terms, reports ABC News.
On Thursday, Trump blamed “a lot of Democrat governors” for keeping churches shuttered. “The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors. I want to get our churches open,” he said. “And we’re gonna take a very strong position on that very soon.”
Attorney General William Barr has also gotten into the fracas, threatening the Justice Department will intervene in lawsuits brought by churches opposing restrictions if it thinks their constitutional rights are being violated. As far as the White House and administration sees it, anything they can blame on someone, anyone, is better than admitting the truth - and that is this - COVID-19 miss a very dangerous virus.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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