President Donald Trump on Friday, May 22, called on state governors to allow churches, mosques and synagogues to reopen for in-person services beginning this weekend, including in Minnesota.
Speaking to White House reporters Friday afternoon, Trump said all places of worship should be considered essential service providers during the pandemic and threatened to "override" governors who decline to lift church restrictions. Trump later walked back the comment and said it would be up to state leaders to set restrictions.
"Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship," Trump said. "It's not right, so I'm correcting this injustice."
Trump said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be issuing guidance to faith communities on how to safely hold worship services during the pandemic. Church leaders aiming to reopen in Minnesota previously said they were structuring their plans on existing CDC guidance.
The comments came as Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday was meeting with faith leaders about how to loosen restrictions. Walz came under fire earlier in the week when he announced he would allow restaurants and bars to serve as many as 50 in an outdoor setting, but kept the cap on indoor worship services at 10.
Leaders of the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod on Wednesday announced they would reopen next week with or without the state’s approval.
Walz and state health officials said they were reluctant to allow larger church services earlier in the week because of the potentially heightened risks of bringing together parishioners who could have heightened risks of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19. And they said a hallmark of many worship ceremonies — singing — had been associated with increased spread of the illness in choirs.
“The data is pretty darn clear that talking and loud talking and singing are pretty important transmission risks, especially in close quarters,” Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.
Malcolm and a spokesman for Walz said the governor remained in conversations with leaders about protocols for allowing in-person services under new CDC guidelines.
Also Friday, the Minnesota Department of Health reported that 33 more Minnesotans died from the coronavirus and its complications, the highest one-day total reported to date, and 813 more were sickened with the illness.
Twenty-five of the 33 of those whose deaths were reported Friday were residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities. Anoka, Dakota, Goodhue, Hennepin, Ramsey, Stearns, Washington and Wright counties reported residents who died due to the illness.
The state announced its single-day positive case total dipped below 100. The state Department of Health confirmed 90 cases of coronavirus on Thursday, May 21, according to numbers released Friday. That’s down from 133 from Wednesday, May 20.
In total, the state has confirmed 2,317 cases.
One death also was reported in Thursday’s numbers, bringing North Dakota’s death toll to 52.
The South Dakota Department of Health reported two more deaths on Friday, May 22. The deaths were both Minnehaha County women in the 80 or above age range. The COVID-19 death toll in the state is now at 50.
The total number of reported COVID-19 cases in South Dakota increased to 4,356, an increase of 106 from Thursday.
The state reported a total of 14,396 positive COVID-19 cases on Friday, an increase of 511 from Thursday’s report. There have been a total of 496 deaths in the state, which is up nine from Thursday.
Around the region
- The always popular Minnesota State Fair has been canceled for 2020, organizers said Friday. Last year, more than 2 million people attended the fair.
- North Dakota will no longer seek criminal charges or penalties against businesses that don’t follow operation guidelines.
- Moondance Jam, the classic rock festival held near Walker, Minn., has been canceled because of the pandemic.
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