PRESIDENT Donald Trump has ordered governors to allow places of worship to reopen this weekend, despite the threat of the coronavirus.
"Today I'm identifying houses of worship – churches, synagogues and mosques – as essential places that provide essential services," Trump said at the White House Friday.
"I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now," he added.
"If there is any question, they're going to have to call me but they're not going to be successful in that call."
He said if governors don’t abide by his request, he will “override” them, though it’s unclear what authority he has to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had prepared reopening guidelines for churches and other houses of worship weeks ago, but the White House had refused to release them until Thursday when Trump abruptly changed course.
The President criticized governors who deemed "liquor stores and abortion centers" essential, but not places of worship.
"It's not right," he said at the press conference. "So I'm correcting this injustice."
"These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united."
At a Ford Motor Co. plant repurposed to make ventilators in Michigan on Thursday, Trump said “I said ‘You better put it [the guidelines] out.’ And they’re doing it. And they’re going to be issuing something today or tomorrow on churches. We got to get our churches open.”
It comes as America’s reopening has triggered a new coronavirus spike, with states with the softest lockdowns among the worst hit.
Fifteen states are currently seeing coronavirus infection numbers increase over two weeks, with the majority of them having minor restrictions for reopening, data shows.
All 50 states have now lifted Covid-19 lockdown measures to varying degrees by allowing some businesses to reopen — as infections nationwide increased to 1.5 million and deaths rose to more than 96,000.
Among the 15 states seeing an upswing in coronavirus infections are Arkansas, which has seen a 136 per cent increase, North Dakota 47 per cent and South Carolina 34 per cent.
These and the other states have reopened with some of the least restrictive guidelines in the US for reopening.
This includes allowing gyms, restaurants plus barbers and salons to open their doors again.
Donald Trump has said even if the United States experienced a second wave of coronavirus, he will not put the United States back into lockdown again.
At the Michigan Ford plant Thursday, when asked if he was concerned about a potential second wave of the virus, Trump told reporters:
"People say that’s a very distinct possibility. It's standard. And we're going to put out the fires.
"We're not going to close the country. We’re going to put out the fires.
"Whether it’s an ember or a flame, we’re going to put it out. But we’re not closing our country."
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