Houses of worship have become the latest coronavirus battleground in the United States.
President Donald Trump declared them “essential” on Friday, calling for them to reopen “right now” and threatening to override governors who resist.
All 50 US states have taken steps to ease lockdown restrictions. But some states still ban large gatherings, including religious services, as the coronavirus death toll approaches 100,000.
Several Covid-19 clusters have been linked to places of worship. When a person who later learned they had the virus attended a California religious service two weeks ago, 180 other people were exposed to coronavirus.
Much like stay-at-home orders and mandatory face masks, the issue has deeply divided Americans. The Interfaith Alliance and the Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized Trump’s calls and advised against holding services. The Southern Baptist Convention, however, said they were “pleased” with the President’s announcement.
Europe has exercised more caution when reopening religious services. French and Italian authorities allowed them to resume this week for the first time in months. But strict rules are in place. Masks and hand sanitizers are mandatory and seats have to be placed at a safe distance from each other.
Meanwhile, Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-FItr. The religious holiday will be a somber affair this year, just like the month that preceded it.
What’s important today
Brazil’s deepening crisis: Coronavirus has yet to peak in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and worst-infected big city, but the healthcare system is already beginning to break down. As the crisis deepens and the number of deaths continues to rise, President Jair Bolsonaro is urging businesses to reopen. He opposes many governors who are stressing social distancing measures to slow the spread.
The lockdown trounces women’s rights: The coronavirus seems to be more deadly for men. But in most other ways, women are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. From a spike in domestic violence and restricted access to family-planning services, to a disproportionate economic impact, lockdown measures are hurting women and their basic rights more than men.
What antibody tests can — and can’t — reveal: Roughly 12% of Moscow residents are believed to have coronavirus antibodies, the Russian capital’s health authorities said yesterday. But health experts have warned against putting too much hope on antibody testing, because it’s unclear whether people become immune after catching the virus.
Hong Kong protesters take to the streets despite virus restrictions: Thousands of people flooded Hong Kong streets today, opposing the Chinese government’s move to impose a national security law that threatens the city’s autonomy. Police fired tear gas at protesters as they began the march, which did not receive official authorization and went against coronavirus social distancing restrictions banning groups of more than eight people from gathering.
On our radar
- Thrift stores across the US are seeing a deluge of donations from people who’ve had months to think about the things they don’t need.
- The New York Times has devoted its entire front page to publishing the names of 1,000 people who lost their lives to coronavirus.
- A cluster of coronavirus cases in the US state of Arkansas has been linked to a swim party. Unlike other states, Arkansas has not been under a stay-at-home order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
- North Dakota’s governor has made an emotional plea to avoid division over face masks.
- With many restaurants closed in the US, rat sightings are increasing as the rodents search for sources of food beyond restaurant dumpsters.
A version of this story appeared in the May 24 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Read the full version here, and sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.