Mar 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Florida megachurch pastor arrested for refusing to call off services

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne. Photo: Clarence Davis/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.

Florida's Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister issued a warrant for the arrest of megachurch pastor Rodney Howard-Browne on Monday after he refused to cancel his packed services and obey coronavirus social distancing orders.

The big picture: With at least 5,000 cases and 60 deaths as of Monday morning, Florida is a growing epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, but a Hillsborough County order that took effect last week prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.

Howard-Browne, an evangelical leader who has been hosted by the Trump White House, continued to hold two crowded services at The River at Tampa Bay Church on Sunday despite warnings from Chronister's office, the Tampa Bay Times notes.

  • He mocked those who were scared of the coronavirus as "pansies" last week and said his church "will never close," the New York Post reports.
  • Howard-Browne was arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules.

What they're saying: "His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week, in danger," Chronister said at a press conference on Monday.

Go deeper

Jun 3, 2020 - Health

DeSantis says Florida bars and clubs can reopen this week

Outdoor restaurant in Fort Lauderdale on May 18. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that bars and clubs will be allowed to reopen on Friday, as the state continues to scale down restrictions it put in place because of the coronavirus, WCTV reports.

Why it matters: DeSantis ordered bars and clubs to close in mid-March as one of the first actions the state took to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Updated 10 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

The Department of Health and Human Services moved on Thursday to require that an individual's race, ethnicity, age and sex be submitted to the agency with novel coronavirus test results.

Why it matters: Some cities and states have reported the virus is killing black people at disproportionately high rates. There are gaps in the national picture of how many people of color are affected, since the data has not been a requirement for states to collect or disclose.

Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.