Trump pushes CDC on reopening churches guidance, says important to nation's 'psyche'

Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is eager for churches to resume in-person fellowship as part of his bigger push to reopen the country amid the pandemic, saying his administration could issue new guidance as soon as Friday.

Framing the reopening of churches as “important in terms of the psyche of our country,” Trump told reporters Thursday that he was urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue guidance specific to places of worship as soon as possible.

“I just got off the phone with CDC and talked about churches. I said I want the churches to open, the people want the churches to open, and I think you’ll have something come down very soon, from CDC, we want to get our churches back,” Trump said at a roundtable with African American community leaders on his trip to Michigan.

The president’s determination to reopen places of worship comes as he has urged the people of the country to view themselves as “warriors” in prioritizing a return to a semblance of normal life even as the coronavirus remains a major threat to public health.

“People want to be in their churches,” the president said. “It’s wonderful to sit home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church or be with your friends and they want to have it open and I think that’s going to be happening very shortly.”

Back in March, the president had envisioned packed church pews by Easter Sunday in a bid to reopen the country, but ultimately relented from the Easter goal.

“I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said on March 24. “It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’ll make it an important day for this, too. I would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go by Easter.”

As he again pushes for churches to return to in-person fellowship, the federal government is in a position to offer guidance, but it will be state and local governments that continue to bear responsible for setting the terms of reopening based on the conditions in their communities.

But that hasn’t stopped Trump from casting the issue in political terms.

The president has criticized some Democratic states for taking approaches that he views as overly cautious and on Thursday blame “a lot of Democrat governors” for keeping churches shuttered.

“The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors. I want to get our churches open,” he said. “And we’re gonna take a very strong position on that very soon.”

Attorney General William Barr has threatened the Justice Department will intervene in lawsuits brought by churches opposing restrictions if it thinks the constitutional rights are being violated.

Public health officials continue to urge caution as states begin to relax social distancing guidelines that reopening too quickly could lead to another spike in virus. While there has been a recent downward decline of new cases on the national level, some states and cities have reported increases.

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