Los Angeles re-opens indoor church services as Covid hammers hospitals

Move puts LA County in line with recent Supreme Court decisions, but at odds with California’s raging pandemic

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 22 December 2020 23:41
Comments
Gavin Newsom outlines six point plan to return California to normalcy

Los Angeles has revised its public health orders to allow for indoor worship services, even as coronavirus continues to hammer the county and hospitals begin making emergency plans for rationing care.

The decision was taken to align with recent Supreme Court decisions.

Los Angeles County announced the move on Saturday, revising previous guidance in a moves that allows for indoor services with masks on and social distancing rules observed, but warned the change wasn’t because the pandemic was getting any better.

“LA County is experiencing the fastest acceleration of new cases than at any other time during the pandemic,” county public health officials said in a statement. “Hospital capacity across the county is limited, and healthcare workers are hard-pressed to keep up with the need for care.”

The change was in response to a series of decisions by the US Supreme Court, which upheld religious groups challenging coronavirus shutdown orders on First Amendment grounds, including a December ruling regarding a group of churches and ministries from the LA town of Pasadena.

Harvest Rock Church, one of the LA organisations that challenged governor Gavin Newsom’s shutdown orders, celebrated the change on its Facebook on Sunday, writing, “GOOD NEWS!! LA County lifts the ban on indoor worship. Family, thank you for standing with us this year, through everything! Thank you for your words of encouragement, support and for your prayers. 2020 was not wasted!"

Still, even in the dry public health memo formalising the change, the county warned against holding indoor services.

“It is strongly recommended that Places of Worship continue to facilitate outdoor or remote services and other related activities for all attendees, especially those who are vulnerable to Covid-19 including older adults and those with co-morbidities, given the increased risk of community transmission of Covid-19 resulting from the unprecedented surge of new daily cases, hospitalisations, and premature deaths,” the memo reads.

LA County, one of the nation’s largest, is in the midst of a full-blown Covid crisis, having confirmed more than 100,000 new cases since December 11, according to county officials. County hospitals are so overwhelmed they’ve discussed emergency plans to ration care, reflecting California’s broader crisis. A state model predicts California could have 75,000 Covid patients by mid-January, doubling the state’s previous peak over the summer, and ICU capacity neared zero over the weekend.

“The worst is yet to come,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County’s health services director, told the Associated Press

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in