May 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's holiday weekend pressure campaign

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump wants to throw open the houses of worship "right now," claiming they are essential services.

What he's saying: “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 said during a press conference on Friday.

Why it matters: Social distancing is hard at places of worship and there's an ongoing legal fight over how they should be treated in plans to lift coronavirus lockdowns.

  • Places of worship, including churches, mosques and synagogues, remain mostly closed due to large gathering restrictions across America.
  • Governors and local officials make these decisions, not Trump, but his pressure could push some of them to accelerate reopening timelines.
  • A CDC case study out this week said 35 of the 92 people who attended services at a rural Arkansas church in March tested positive for COVID-19, killing three.

The big picture: In California, a "group of federal attorneys wrote a letter to [Gov. Gavin] Newsom warning him that prolonged church closures likely violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment due to the fact that similar non-religious businesses are receiving the green light to reopen in Stage 2," per the San Francisco Chronicle.

  • A federal judge ruled in early May that churches can be held to the same standards as other places where people commune, such as restaurants, concerts, movies and sporting events, notes Axios' Marisa Fernandez.
  • Federal courts earlier ruled against temporary bans in Kentucky and Kansas. Churches are now open in a reduced capacity in both states.

Earlier this week, the CDC released a 60-page road map for states, restaurants, schools, child care programs, mass transit systems and other businesses, Axios' Alayna Treene notes.

  • Some religious leaders voiced concerns about churches being left out, sources familiar with the discussions tell Axios.

Go deeper... Trump: "we're not closing our country" for second coronavirus wave

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.

D.C. chef: Restaurants need more time to spend PPP money

Photo: Axios screenshot

Restaurants need more time to spend money they've received from the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that the loans are forgivable, Kwame Onwuachi, owner and head chef of Kith and Kin, a D.C.-based restaurant, said during an Axios digital event.

Why it matters: Onwuachi said small restaurants are reaching the end of the eight-week time limit to spend the money. If they do not spend the money, the loans may not be forgiven.

CDC: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," but more data is needed

CDC director Robert Redfield briefs reporters on April 8. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Coronavirus antibody tests are still relatively unreliable, and it's unclear if people who get the virus are immune to getting it again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned on Tuesday.

What they're saying: The agency explicitly warned against using antibody tests to determine whether someone should return to work or to group people within schools or prisons.