May 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump calls for churches to reopen "right now"

Trump spoke to bikers from the White House balcony earlier Friday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump announced Friday that he was declaring churches and places of worship as "essential places that provide essential services," and said that he would override governors to allow them to open "right now."

What he's saying: "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 said from the White House podium.

  • “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now. For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors," he added.

Reality check: The federal government does not have the power to implement nationwide measures to move toward a reopening, though the president has used social media — and formerly, his daily briefings — to influence governors' decisions.

  • Trump similarly tweeted last month that the "decision to open up the states" following shutdown measures taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus lies with him, not governors.

Between the lines: The announcement comes after federal guidelines on reopening churches were delayed over a disagreement between the CDC and the White House over the specifics of what they should look like.

  • The CDC released a 60-page road map for states, restaurants, schools, child care programs, mass transit systems and other businesses about reopening earlier this week, but left out details regarding the reopening of places of worship and faith-based organizations.
  • Some religious leaders voiced concerns about churches being left out, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios, prompting Trump to direct the CDC to quickly finish the guidelines.
  • Trump told reporters Thursday that the new guidance would be issued in the next few days.

The big picture: The Trump administration closely consulted religious leaders as they drafted the guidelines, a White House official told Axios.

Go deeper

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.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.

Notre Dame president: Science alone "cannot provide the answer" to reopening

The Main Administration Building and Golden Dome on the campus of University of Notre Dame before a football game in 2018. Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins wrote in a New York Times op-ed Tuesday that science alone "cannot provide the answer" regarding the school's decision to bring students back to campus for its fall semester.

The state of play: Jenkins said that the decision also hinged on "moral value," arguing that "the mark of a healthy society is its willingness to bear burdens and take risks for the education and well-being of its young. Also worthy of risk is the research that can enable us to deal with the challenges we do and will face."

The pandemic’s health side effects are growing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nearly half of Americans said that either they or someone in their household has skipped or delayed needed medical care because of the coronavirus, according to new polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Why it matters: Shutting down elective medical care may have been necessary, particularly in coronavirus hotspots, but will have lasting effects on some patients.