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Here’s how President Trump’s push to reopen churches impacts Arizona

People attend a press conference with the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, at Our Saviour Parish in Manhattan regarding the reopening of churches in the archdiocese amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 21, 2020 in New York City.

PHOENIX – President Donald Trump on Friday vowed to override governors who don’t allow churches and other houses of worship to open this weekend.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is unlikely to hear from the president about the issue.

Calling houses of worship “essential” services, Trump said: “In America, we need more prayer not less.”

Trump also said the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also would issue guidance for communities of faith to hold safe gatherings.

The CDC previously sent the Trump administration documents outlining steps for religious facilities to reopen, but the White House shelved them at the time out of concerns about the propriety of government making specific dictates to places of worships.

Ducey responded to Trump’s message on Twitter, saying Arizona has been protecting religious rights throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued a legal opinion concluding that church attendance was an essential activity under Ducey’s stay-at-home order, which was in effect from March 31 to May 15.

However, most of the state’s religious facilities voluntarily closed their doors to curb the spread of COVID-19, with some opting to hold online services instead.

After Ducey announced that the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected” executive order would expire, his office issued recommendations for houses of worship to follow if they chose to hold in-person services.

He also issued a new “Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger” order on the state’s next phase of coronavirus response. It clearly states, “Nothing in this order prevents a person from engaging in constitutionally protected activities such as speech and religion.”

Churches have the potential to infect large groups of people if precautions aren’t taken. A church in Northern California that defied the governor’s orders and held a service on Mother’s Day was attended by a person who later tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing more than 180 churchgoers.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, said that faith community leaders should be in touch with their local health departments and can take steps to mitigate risks, including making sure those who are at high risk of severe complications remain protected.

“There’s a way for us to work together to have social distancing and safety for people so we decrease the amount of exposure that anyone would have to an asymptomatic,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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