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NC governor stands by decision to suspend church services during pandemic

Screenshot of Governor Roy Cooper from online coronavirus briefing.
Screenshot of Governor Roy Cooper from online coronavirus briefing.
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North Carolina’s governor is standing by his executive order that keeps churches from conducting traditional indoor services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Roy Cooper said he is a church elder and was a Sunday school teacher for more than 20 years and is grateful for his church family and the sense of belonging and community. However, he added that gathering in groups right now is not safe.

“One fundamental tenet of faith is to care for and love one another,” he said, “When doing these things together, sitting or standing indoors for more than 10 minutes, we greatly increase the chances of passing to each other a virus that can be deadly.”

Some North Carolina congregations have experienced outbreaks and deaths due to COVID-19 and he applauded the many houses of worship that have transitioned to doing outdoor or virtual services in order to keep their members safe.

In fact, regardless of executive orders, Cooper said every congregation should pause and consider whether indoor services are the right thing to do right now for their members.

State Representative Keith Kidwell has joined seven other lawmakers in supporting the Christian group filing a lawsuit against Governor Roy Cooper.

"This government, no government, or as the North Carolina constitution says - no human authority should restrict the operations of the churches," he said.

Kidwell said the easing of Cooper's Stay at Home order does not include churches; he added that the restrictions prevent faith groups from holding indoor services with more than ten people.

"The churches should’ve been asked, not ordered to enforce social distancing, to have hand cleaners and masks available," he explained. I think that would’ve made a lot more sense."

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said Wednesday he will not prevent churches from meeting.

During Thursday's coronavirus press conference, Cooper reiterated that a key factor in the state’s readiness to move to Phase 2 is testing; more testing has to be widely available at low cost or free to keep people safe and reignite the economy.

More protective gear is being provided statewide and he added that the state is sending personal protective equipment to every one of the 3800 long-term care facilities in North Carolina.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen acknowledged that the largest one-day increase in positive cases was seen on Thursday but added that the uptick is mainly due to the increase in testing.

“Today was our highest day of new cases,” said Cohen, “But when you look at out seven day rolling average we can see that we are beginning to level.”
“It’s a good sign,” she added.

Another important metric, hospitalizations, continue to be overall stable. She added that the increased testing and contract tracing capabilities are improving, as is the level of personal protective equipment available with the exception of gowns.

Phase two of the reopening of the state is currently scheduled to begin May 22 so long as adequate progress is made.

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