Donald Trump's administration disregarded guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in May 2020 and refused to allow the public health agency to advise religious groups to consider holding virtual services as a means of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Emails released Friday morning by the House panel investigating the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic indicate that the Trump White House considered that advice "problematic" and rewrote the CDC guidance to remove “all the tele-church suggestions,” The Washington Post reports.
The CDC's proposed recommendations for virtual religious gatherings were prompted by reports that dozens of people were infected with the virus - and three people had died - after church events in Arkansas. It also noted that 87 percent of the attendees at a choir practice in a Washington state house of worship tested positive.
The United States surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths in May of 2020 but that didn't stop the Trump administration from putting the brakes on the CDC's science-based declaration that houses of worship had become "hot spots" for coronavirus transmission.
The Washington Post reports: "The guidance subsequently published by the agency did not include any recommendations about offering virtual or drive-in options for religious services, clergy visits, youth group meetings and other traditionally in-person gatherings.
Trump's acquiescence to religious groups' pleas to encourage in-person gatherings forced the CDC to remove from public health warnings statements that singing in church choirs could spread the virus, even though its studies had found that actually was the case.