Pence urges Americans to avoid church services of more than 10 people
Vice President Pence urged Americans to avoid church services of more than 10 people as some faith leaders have come under scrutiny for holding crowded events despite social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’re so grateful to churches and synagogues and places of worship around America that have heeded the president’s coronavirus guidelines for America,” he said in an interview with ABC News’s “Nightline” that will air Wednesday night, referring to federal guidelines encouraging people to practice “social distancing.”
“We really believe this is a time when people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people,” he added, according to an excerpt shared by the network. “And so, we continue to urge churches around America to heed to that.”
The comments from Pence, a devout Christian, come as some churches have raised eyebrows for holding packed events. Christians around the world are gearing up to celebrate Easter on April 12, though many churches are expected to hold online services.
A megachurch pastor in Florida was arrested Monday for violating a local social distancing order. The event came a day after 500 people gathered in Louisiana for another service in spite of a statewide ban on large gatherings.
Federal officials have warned that ignoring the administration’s recommendations could exacerbate the spread of the virus. Officials have said that upward of 200,000 people could die even if the recommendations are followed.
When asked why the Trump administration does not mandate its social distancing recommendations, Pence, who leads the White House’s coronavirus task force, responded that he’d prefer to allow states and localities to oversee law enforcement.
“We’ve also been working very closely with governors around the country to make sure that they have the information and the resources to make the best decision for their communities,” he said.
However, Pence expressed optimism that the country would see an improvement in the fight against COVID-19 by the end of next month.
“We believe we’re in a much better place by June the 1st,” Pence said. “If every American will put these guidelines into practice, if we all continue to do our part, we really do believe that by Memorial Day weekend or by early summer … we can be through the hardest part of this.”
The coronavirus has infected more than 206,000 people in the U.S. and killed more than 4,500 people.
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