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Unprecedented Easter as US Nears COVID-19 Apex: When Will Churches and the Economy Reopen?

04-13-2020
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Most church buildings were empty Easter Sunday as the COVID-19 pandemic caused Christians around the world to celebrate at home.

Here in the United States, there are signs that the curve is flattening in New York, but the worst may be coming for some other states. All of this is happening of course as many Americans wonder when the nation’s economy will get up and running again.

Although hospitalizations are going down in New York, infections are still climbing in some parts of the country. So, with the COVID-19 virus still spreading, might the opening of the economy be delayed? 

"The models do show that we are very close to the peak and so I think that information is accurate...but I just think it is too early to say whether May first is that date, but more to come on that as we learn more information and as our planning proceeds," said Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.

Government infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN the country will likely see a "rolling-reopen" with different areas opening up as they evaluate the risk.

"It’s not going to be a light switch that we say okay it is now June, July or whatever, 'click' the light switch goes back on," Fauci explained. "It's going to be depending on where you are in the country.”

Neel Kashkari, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis president agrees. He predicts rolling shutdowns over the next 18-months. 

"It seems like we're going to have various phases of rolling flare-ups...different parts of the economy turning back on, maybe turning back off again. This could be a long, hard road ahead for us," Kashkari explained.

Most Easter services were streamed online Sunday, but some churches celebrated the resurrection of Christ in church buildings or parking lots.

In Kentucky, Governor Andy Bashir warned that people of his state attending services in person would be required to self-quarantine for 14-days.  

In Houston, Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen streamed his church's Easter service online praising God saying, "Lord I thank you that you are bigger than a virus!"

In Jackson, Mississippi, Pastor Jesse Horton allowed church members at Emmanuel M B Church to worship inside by practicing social distancing.

"My concern is why is it that everything else can be open?" he asked.

But some localities have been cracking down on churches that defy stay-at-home orders.

Police issued $500 tickets to church members attending drive-in services at the Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi. That raised the ire of constitutionalists and Christians around the country.

Safeguarding religious freedom rights during the pandemic is also a concern of Attorney General William Barr.

A Department of Justice spokesperson tweeted that, "AG Barr is monitoring government regulation of religious services... while social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious organizations. Expect action from the DOJ next week!"

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