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Blacks, Don’t Fall for the President’s “Rope-A-Dope” on Churches Reopening

Special to California Black Media Partners | Hardy Brown, Publisher Emeritus, Black Voice News and co-founder of California Black Media

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Pres. Trump is tempting Christians to crowd into churches, implying your God will protect you. You have been pent up for three months now and you deserve to be free. This is a free country.


The President boasts that we had one of the greatest economies the world has ever seen before COVID-19, so you should deny the fact that the virus is threatening your life and get out, cut loose, sing, pray, shout and hug your friends. Your God will protect you.


His attempt to persuade “the saved” among us to just get out and go back to their beloved churches carries more weight for African Americans.


Trump knows that Coronavirus/COVID-19, “Rona” as it is called in the hood, is killing more Blacks than any other race of people.


Across the United States, Black Americans represent nearly 13% of the total population, but African Americans living in counties where the Black population ranges between 13% and 85%, account for more than half of all COVID-19 infections, and they make up almost  60% of deaths. Those numbers were released earlier this month by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, the University of Mississippi, and Emory University.


Here in California, Black COVID-19 patients are 2.7 times more likely to be hospitalized than their Non-Hispanic, White counterparts, and they “tend to arrive at healthcare facilities sicker and with more severe symptoms,” according to a study released just last week by Sutter Health, a non-profit healthcare network based in Sacramento.


Knowing that Blacks are at a higher risk of dying and getting hospitalized from COVID-19, what should we make of the President’s push to get us back into our churches?


At best, we might assume that the President is trying to till the ground in preparation for a grassroots religious uprising against popular Democratic governors like Newsom and Cuomo across the country who have become models, for many Americans, of efficient leadership in response to the coronavirus crisis. So far, President Trump’s instigation and dog whistling against state-imposed shutdowns have taken root across the country mostly among White hard-Right wing groups.


Earlier this month, about 1,200 pastors, mostly White, in California vowed legal action against the state and told the governor they would open up their churches on Pentecost Sunday, which is May 31, with or without the governor’s blessing or approval.


But Black clergy and Civil Rights organizations are putting up a wall of resistance, remaining cautious about the reopening of churches, businesses, and public spaces, considering the havoc COVID-19 is wreaking in our communities.


“I’m appealing to all my men and women of faith to reject that because, clearly, we are not in the position to safely tell congregants of any faith to come in person and worship without risking their lives and risking their health,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, President an CEO of National Action Network. “We’ve already seen churches that have prematurely opened up and people got have gotten sick and some have even died.”


Fortunately, this past Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gov Newsom’s ban on in-person church services, after President Trump reclassified churches as essential last week.


Several other Black members of the clergy have echoed Sharpton’s position against reopening.


In the worst-case scenario, African Americans might assume Trump is hoping to reduce the Black voting population of seniors by using “Rona” to do his dirty work, allowing him to escape the blame. This may seem cynical to some, but it is not a far-fetched notion among African Americans watching how callously so many are approaching a return to business as usual without factoring how this disease is impacting Blacks of all ages.


We love religion and we tap into our Christian faith for so much of the power that takes us through life’s challenges from day to day. So I liken Trump’s proposition to a famous story of seduction in the Bible: What Satan was doing to Jesus after Jesus had fasted for forty days all alone in the wilderness.


Like the frustration we’re feeling under this shelter in place order, Satan knew Jesus was lonely and hungry and wanted to be around people because that was His main reason for being on earth as a human.


So don’t fall for the President’s “Rope-A-Dope” stay home for just a little longer until we figure out that its safer for us.


The only way Black people should go back to church like the President is suggesting is if they see the Blood of the Lamb painted over the door and they personally hear God speak loud and clear, "you will be safe in this church building." Otherwise, they should stay home and wait for COVID-19 (the death angel) to pass us by.


My friends, this is what the angels will do for you if you believe, keep the faith and trust in HIS WORD. My family’s pastor, the late Rev. William Jacks at St. Paul AME in San Bernardino, taught me that when our son was lying in the hospital bed in an induced coma for 19 days. Friends were advising me to go home get some sleep, and Rev. Jacks said to me, “follow Jesus, He will provide everything you need in times like these.”


And he sure did. Our son miraculously pulled through and survived that ordeal, as we stood by his side, praying, and knowing that we would get to the other side of that crisis, together, as family.

Counties Statewide Can Reopen Places of Worship for

Religious Services and Retail Stores

Posted: May 25, 2020

Modifications Required to Protect Californians against COVID-19

Places of Worship Should Limit Attendance to 25% of Total Capacity or a Maximum of 100 Attendees

Retail Guidance for In-Store Shopping, Already in Place for Certain Counties, Now Applies Statewide

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health announced the statewide reopening of places of worship for religious services and in-store retail shopping. Modifications are required to keep Californians safe and limit the spread of COVID-19. Subject to approval by county public health departments, all retail stores can reopen for in-store shopping under previously issued guidelines. Under new guidance, places of worship can hold religious services and funerals that limit attendance to 25% of a building’s capacity – or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower – upon approval by the county department

of public health.


While the vast majority of large gatherings remain prohibited under the state’s stay-at-home order, the Department of Public Health has released guidelines for in-person protests and events designed for political expression. The guidance limits attendance to 25% of an area’s maximum occupancy – or up to 100 attendees.


“Together, our actions have helped bend the curve and reduce infections in our state. As sectors continue to open with changes that aim to lower risk, remember that COVID-19 is still present in our communities,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health. “As more of us may be leaving our homes, keeping physical distance, wearing face coverings in public, and washing your hands frequently are more important than ever to help protect yourself and those around you.”

The new guidance for religious services and cultural ceremonies encourages organizations to continue online services and activities, including to protect individuals who are most at risk for more severe COVID-19, including older adults and people with specific medical conditions.


To reopen for religious services and funerals, places of worship must:

• Establish and implement a COVID-19 prevention plan for every location, train staff on the plan, and regularly evaluate workplaces for compliance.

• Train employees and volunteers on COVID-19, including how to prevent it from spreading and which underlying health conditions may make individuals more susceptible to contracting the virus.

• Implement cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

• Set physical distancing guidelines.

• Recommend that staff and guests wear cloth face coverings, and screen staff for temperature and symptoms at the beginning of their shifts.

• Set parameters around or consider eliminating singing and group recitations. These activities dramatically increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. For this reason, congregants engaging in singing, particularly in the choir, and group recitation should wear face coverings at all times and when possible, these activities should be conducted outside with greater than 6-foot distancing.


The existing guidance for retailers, previously allowed for counties approved to advance in the reopening process, now applies statewide. Retail can now open for in-store shopping statewide. The guidelines help reduce the risk for workers and customers. Retail does not include personal services such as hair salons, nail salons and barbershops.


In 21 days, the Department of Public Health, in consultation with local departments of public health, will review and assess the impact of the religious services guidelines and provide further direction as part of a phased-in restoration of activities. This 21-day interval accounts for seven days for religious communities to prepare and reopen in addition to a 14-day incubation period of COVID-19.


More information about the state’s COVID-19 guidance is on the California Department of Public Health's Guidance web page.


More information about reopening California and what individuals can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is available at covid19.ca.gov.


Additional Resources

Cal/OSHA General Guidelines on Protecting Workers from COVID-19

CDC Guidance for Communities of Faith

CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers

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