Trump calls houses of worship ‘essential services’

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.

Without any clear authority to do so, Trump said that he was calling houses of faith, including churches, synagogues, and mosques, “essential services” and urged governors to reopen them “right now.”

After he spoke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a number of long-delayed guidelines with suggestions for steps that houses of worship can take to curb the spread of the virus.

“Today I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services,” Trump said at a hastily scheduled briefing at the White House on Friday. “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.”

The president threatened to “override” the governors if they did not follow his order, though it was not immediately clear what powers he was claiming. “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.”


When the CDC recently released a set of guidelines for reopening, its report largely mirrored a draft version that the White House had rejected — but it omitted a section on “communities of faith” that had troubled Trump administration officials, who worried that the suggestions infringed on religious rights.

On Friday the CDC’s new guidelines for religious communities suggested that they consider a number of limitations to keep congregations safe.

Among them: take steps to limit the size of gatherings in accordance with the guidance and directives of state and local authorities; consider suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition; consider temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects that cannot be easily cleaned between persons, such as worship aids, prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, religious texts and other bulletins, books, shared cups, or other items received, passed, or shared among congregants.


David Postman, the chief of staff for Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, said the state didn’t know what the president’s comments meant and the state had not seen any formal order. “We don’t believe the president has the ability to dictate what states can and cannot open,” Postman said.


Survey indicates hesitancy about venturing out

WASHINGTON — Much of the country remains unlikely to venture out to bars, restaurants, theaters, or gyms anytime soon, despite state and local officials across the country increasingly allowing businesses to reopen, according to a new survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

That hesitancy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak could muffle any recovery from what has been the sharpest and swiftest economic downturn in US history. Just 4 percent of those who went to concerts, movies, theaters, or sporting events at least monthly before the outbreak say they’d do so in the next few weeks if they could. Only about half of those who regularly went to restaurants, exercised at the gym, or traveled would feel comfortable doing so again.


About a quarter of Americans say someone in their household has lost a job amid the downturn, and about half have lost household income, including layoffs, pay cuts, cut hours, or unpaid time off. The majority of those whose household suffered a layoff still believe they will return to their previous employer, but the share expecting their job will not return has risen slightly over the past month, to 30 percent from 20 percent.


Ohio officials apologize for‘offensive’ mask guidance

Health authorities in Ohio’s largest county have apologized after issuing ‘‘offensive’’ face-mask guidance for African- Americans and people of color, urging them to steer clear of masks that could be associated with ‘‘gang symbolism’’ or ‘‘elicit deeply held stereotypes.’’

The Franklin County Public Health department, which just recently declared racism a public health crisis, had issued its guidance last month after Blacks expressed concern about being racially profiled while wearing face masks. Officials said they wanted to ‘‘ensure that all individuals feel safe and can protect themselves from the COVID-19 when out in public by wearing a face mask.’’

But the pointers the health department offered didn’t exactly resonate in the way authorities apparently hoped. The guidelines, which encouraged people of color to wear brightly colored masks with decorative fabric, also urged:

‘‘Avoid fabrics that elicit deeply held stereotypes. (i.e. bandannas, skull prints, horror prints, etc.)’’

‘‘When utilizing a homemade mask, avoid bandannas that are red or blue, as these are typically associated with gang symbolism.’’

And finally: ‘‘It is not recommended to wear a scarf just simply tied around the head as this can indicate unsavory behavior, although not intended.’’



Postal Service facility open despite virus investigation

DENVER — A US Postal Service distribution facility in Denver that handles 10 million pieces of mail a day for Colorado and Wyoming is still open despite being ordered to shut down by city health officials because of a coronavirus outbreak investigation.

The agency says it is complying with federal safety guidelines and working with city officials to address their concerns. Denver health officials say the closure order was a last resort after the Postal Service refused to provide it with necessary information and inspectors were refused entry beyond its post office service counter.


Mount Rushmore set to reopen ahead of schedule

KEYSTONE, S.D. — Mount Rushmore is opening sooner than expected. The national memorial and its facilities and restaurants will be opening Saturday, about three weeks earlier than previously planned.

The Nature Trail and the Presidential Trail will be open to the base of the mountain, and the Sculptor’s Studio will be open. The National Park Service said the information center and gift shop will be closed and all educational and interpretive programs are suspended.

Visitors will be encouraged to maintain physical distancing and hand sanitizer dispensers will be available in multiple locations. Employees will be wearing personal protective equipment that is appropriate for their job responsibilities.


DeSantis gives go-ahead for summer camps in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said summer camps and youth activities can open without restrictions.

He said local organizations and governments can set rules and guidelines. The state won’t preempt those rules.


DeSantis said there have been no deaths in Florida of people under age 25.

Also, Miami Beach city commissioners agreed to open beaches and hotels on June 1 .