Religious services and gatherings will be still be allowed under Florida's stay-at-home order

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  • Religious gatherings in churches, synagogues, and other facilities will still be permitted under Florida’s new stay-at-home order to combat COVID-19.
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order instructing Floridians to stay at home on April 1 after weeks of inaction on the issue and his controversial refusal to close down Florida’s beaches.
  • But the order exempts several businesses and activities the state designated as essential, including religious services in “churches, synagogues, and houses of worship.”
  • Florida allowing religious services also comes after police in Tampa arrested Evangelical Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for holding crowded church services in defiance of the county’s own stay-at-home order.
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Religious gatherings in churches, synagogues, and other facilities will still be permitted under Florida’s new stay-at-home order to combat COVID-19, CNN reported on Wednesday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis finally issued an executive order instructing Floridians to stay at home on April 1, after weeks of declining to close down non-essential businesses and his controversial refusal to close down Florida’s beaches during the height of spring break.

DeSantis has also been criticised for blaming the COVID-19 outbreak in Florida on people travelling down to the state from New York.

As of Thursday night, the Florida Department of Health had reported 7,773 positive cases of COVID-19 and 101 deaths.

The stay-at-home order, which went into effect at midnight on Thursday, mandates people to “limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.”

But the order exempts several businesses and activities the state designated as essential, including religious services in “churches, synagogues, and houses of worship,” despite the Centres for Disease Control guidelines recommending that Americans not gather in groups of 10 people or more and practice social distancing by remaining six apart from other people if at all possible.

Florida’s exemption for religious services also comes after police in Tampa arrested Evangelical Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for continuing to hold crowded church services in defiance of Hillsborough County’s own stay-at-home order.

Howard-Browne has now been charged with two misdemeanour counts of holding an unlawful assembly and violating public health rules,CNN reported.

The question over whether to ban religious service in the coronavirus outbreak has caused friction between government authorities and religious communities in several states as more religious institutions move to holding virtual services.

Similarly in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott also overruled multiple local county ordinances banning religious gatherings by labelling religious gatherings as essential in a statewide order as long as they comply with social distancing guidelines, the San Antonio Express-News reported on Wednesday.

And in New Jersey, police have had to break up multiple gatherings in the heavily Orthodox Jewish community of Lakewood that violated Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay-at-home order.

Public health experts warn that government authorities have to impose containment measures across the board and can’t pick and choose which gatherings they will allow.

In a Thursday appearance on MSNBC, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned that when it comes to containing pandemics, “half measures don’t work.”

“Viruses don’t operate like this, they don’t say ‘we’ll stay out church gatherings or limited gatherings at certain locations, they spread everywhere at every time,” Murthy said, emphasising for governors, adequate leadership during the crisis “is about making those bold, difficult, and sometimes unpopular choices.”

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