Supporters of President Donald Trump rally to reopen California as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen, on May 16, 2020 in Woodland Hills, California.
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More than 180 people who attended a religious service on Mother’s Day in California have been told to self-quarantine after a person in attendance at a church ceremony tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Butte County Public Health Administration.
The gathering was prohibited under California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order, which forbids gatherings of any size.
“This decision comes at a cost of many hours and a financial burden to respond effectively to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. Such decisions can place great risk on the County’s ability to continue opening at a faster rate than the State,” the Butte County health director said.
The church’s pastor told The Washington Post he held the service because church is an “essential” part of his life.
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More than 180 people have been ordered by local officials in California to self-quarantine after one person at a Mother’s Day church service in Butte County tested positive for COVID-19 the day after the congregation met, the Butte County Public Health Administration said in a press release Friday.
Gatherings of any size have been prohibited in California since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 executive order that ordered non-essential businesses closed. The state is still under that order, though certain areas that meet state-ordered criteria have been allowed to more quickly reopen portions of their economies.
“Despite the Governor’s order, the organization chose to open its doors, which resulted in exposing the entire congregation to COVID-19,” the Friday press release read. “This decision comes at a cost of many hours and a financial burden to respond effectively to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19. Such decisions can place great risk on the County’s ability to continue opening at a faster rate than the State.”
While local health officials did not say where the May 10 service occurred, Palermo Bible Family Church Pastor Michael Jacobsen told The Washington Post that the service occurred at his congregation. He said there were about 160 people in attendance, according to the report.
Jacobsen told the Post there had been fewer than 20 COVID-19 cases and zero deaths in the county when he decided to go ahead with the Mother’s Day service. According to data analyzed by Johns Hopkins University, there have been 22 reported cases and zero deaths as of Sunday.
“I already had to cancel our Easter celebration, which is the first Easter from when I received Jesus into my life that I wasn’t able to be a church service, and that’s very difficult,” he told Washington Post. “I see church as a very essential part of my life.”
Danette York, director of Butte County Public Health said Friday that “organizations that hold in-person services or gatherings are putting the health and safety of their congregations, the general public and our local ability to open up at great risk.
She added: “We all need to do our part to follow the orders and mitigation efforts so that our Reopen Butte County plan can continue to move forward. Moving too quickly through the reopening process can cause a major setback and could require us to revert back to more restrictive measures.”
For weeks, California protestors have targeted Newsom’s stay-at-home order, urging him to allow non-essential businesses to reopen and services to resume. According to KCRA, 23 counties in California, including Butte County, have been given the go-ahead to transition into California’s “Stage 2” recovery plan, meaning some dine-in restaurants and walk-in shopping can resume under social distancing guidelines.
Still, religious ceremonies are not permitted — even under the Stage 2 guidelines.
On Thursday, a group of about 40 people from around the state held a protest in Oakland to argue against Newsom’s continued prohibition of in-person church services, according to KABC. Protestors believe that religious services should be allowed under Stage 2.
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