President Donald Trump has consistently encouraged resistance to public health measures that have been enacted amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. This week at the White House, he did so yet again at a hastily called afternoon press conference. No matter the fact that tens of thousands of new Coronavirus cases a day are still being recorded in the United States on an almost daily basis, he insisted at that press conference that churches must be allowed to reopen this weekend, and he threatened to “override” governors who did not go along with his wishes. It’s not even clear what legal authority that Trump could even use to “override” the governors.
President Trump announces the CDC will issue guidance for houses of worship. He deems them essential places with essential sources. He says he wants them to happen right now, as in this weekend. "If they don't do it, I will override the governors."
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 22, 2020
Trump commented to reporters:
‘Today, I am identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues, and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I am correcting this injustice and am calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open right now… The people are demanding to go to churches, synagogue, go to their mosque.’
TRUMP: "Some governors have deemed liquor stores & abortion clinics essential, but have left out churches … it's not right. So I am correcting this injustice & am calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow churches & places of worship to open right now" pic.twitter.com/e0VU8XeLEm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 22, 2020
Notably, nowhere in his comments did Trump outline any actual policies that could be in place to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus among congregants. All he did note was that the faith leaders themselves could supposedly figure out how to keep the congregants safe — and he insisted that if governors didn’t follow along with his demands, he would “override” them. Again, it’s not clear how he would actually do that, and he did not answer any questions at the conclusion of his remarks.
Trump angrily reads his statement about reopening places of worship and then leaves without answering questions pic.twitter.com/HiZH7AyJhO
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 22, 2020
In fact, there have been consistent poll results indicating that majorities of Americans support the public health measures like social distancing that have been enacted. In late April, a full 86 percent of respondents in an ABC/Ipsos poll said that “social distancing and stay-at-home orders are responsible government policies that are saving lives.” In a more recent poll, a full 62 percent of respondents said that “wearing masks is a matter of public health, not personal choice,” although Trump himself has stated the exact opposite, at least in regards to his own usage of face masks.
Americans say, 62% to 29%, wearing masks is a matter of public health, not personal choice.
— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) May 20, 2020
Trump earned a lot of criticism for his latest stunt. MSNBC political analyst Eli Stokols pointed out:
‘Ostensibly an announcement about public health, that brief Trump appearance was awfully heavy on the cultural virtue signaling.’
Ostensibly an announcement about public health, that brief Trump appearance was awfully heavy on the cultural virtue signaling. https://t.co/XwPlWOa7Ry
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) May 22, 2020
Another Twitter user added:
‘So much for “state’s rights”, huh @GOP ? Also, you can practice your religion from home. No one is saying you can’t worship, they are just saying you can’t do it in a way that could kill people. No freedoms are being violated.’
So much for "state's rights", huh @GOP? Also, you can practice your religion from home. No one is saying you can't worship, they are just saying you can't do it in a way that could kill people. No freedoms are being violated. #FocusOnTheTrumpDeathToll100K #ListenToTheExperts https://t.co/cM71XPqC2p
— Erin the gardener (@ThatsSoErin) May 22, 2020
It remains to be seen where Trump actually goes with these demands. Asked for clarification, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not have an answer. Trump has already spoken out against the social distancing demands that have been enacted around the country, although many of these demands have been implemented according to the guidelines implemented by his own administration.
The Press Secretary is not answering the question because Trump has no authority to override state governors via presidential decree.
Trump’s proclamation suggests that he lacks even a basic understanding of our constitutional system. https://t.co/eCVbc8niSi
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 22, 2020