Late Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump dropped a bombshell and declared houses of worship “essential,” which would require such establishments to reopen to the public.
According to a report from CNN, the president said that state governors must reopen religious institutions for services and threatened to “override” governors if their states did not follow the new federal recommendations despite not having the authority to do so.
Since the start of COVID-19, 150 clergy have died citywide and one church in the south Bronx has lost 21 members. Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is also who is also a senior Pastor of New Life Outreach International Church, said that this is not the right time to reopen.
With 2,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state daily, the number of cases is still too high to let people back into houses of worship, Cabrera said.
“I’m not in favor. “I think this weekend is too early,” he said.
Cabrera noted that he has spoken to fellow clergymen and has gotten mixed responses. They have seen the stress and anxiety amongst their congregants and recognize the need to help them, but also know there are still too many people dying from COVID-19.
At the same time, Cabrera stressed that people need their houses of worship. For many, churches, synagogues and mosques are their second home.
Cabrera argued that establishments like liquor stores have been deemed essential since the onset of the pandemic, but houses of worship have not earned the same designation.
“I think people are starting to understand the role houses of worship play,” he said. “Houses of worship are people of faith and they have felt this [closing] was unconstitutional.”
Cabrera cautioned that none of the places can reopen without having a plan. All it takes is one person to infect others, he said. According to Cabrera, families can sit together and there should be six feet between them other congregants and all places must distribute masks and require everyone to wear them.
When the Bronx Times spoke with Cabrera, he said that he would not open the church this weekend but would not be surprised if other places did. Many churches and synagogues will open out of necessity as they are bleeding money.
“How long can churches survive being closed?” Cabrera wondered. “I have wept because I miss my church family.”