Dr. Paul Zeitz
Experts Recommend Restrictive Physical Distancing Orders During Religious Gatherings during Easter, Passover, and Ramadan
Evidence Proves Dangerous Transmission of COVID-19 in Religious Gatherings
(6 April 2020, Washington DC) Mounting evidence demonstrates that the COVID-19 virus is rapidly being transmitted during religious gatherings in the USA where social distancing is not being implemented.
The Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, a member of the recently formed COVID-19 Emergency Response Group, released a policy brief,“Saving Lives Through Getting Religions on Board,” stating:
- COVID-19 outbreaks in the USA and around the world are attributable to religious gatherings, featuring heavy singing, loud prayer, celebration, and mourning – all in close quarters.
- Evidence shows that religious gatherings are sparking COVID-19 transmission leading to increased illness, death, and transmission to religious community members by asymptomatic carriers.
- These outbreaks are occurring across every religious group in all parts of the USA and around the world.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response Group (a newly forming coalition of public health experts, academics, religious leaders, and civic organizations) is calling for urgent action by the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), governors, and religious leaders and denominations to implement and enforce social distancing orders during Easter, Passover, and Ramadan in order to reduce COVID-19 transmission and save as many lives as possible:
- Call on President Trump and Congress to implement a national shelter-in-home order during April 2020 to include religious gatherings;
- Call on Governors of Ten States should remove exemptions and loopholes for religious gatherings in their social distancing orders: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin;
- Call on Governors of Nine States should immediately implement shelter-in-home orders and include religious gatherings: South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota, and North Dakota;
- Call on political leaders and public health officials to mobilize religious leaders from all faiths to abide by shelter-in-home and restrictive social distancing orders during the April 2020 holidays of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan and encourage the use of technology to create virtual prayer and community experiences.
Joel Segal, National Coordinator, COVID-19 Emergency Response Group, stated: “We can ill afford to lose one person to COVID-19, because every life is precious. We as a nation cannot rush to resume our normal lives at this point as it can result in many needless deaths. President Trump must carefully listen to our nation’s leading infectious disease specialists, including his senior advisors, and adhere to their suggested protocol of staying home unless you absolutely have to leave, including for religious gatherings.
Rev. Dr. Rodney S. Sadler, Jr., Director, Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Union Presbyterian Seminary stated:
Fellowship is important, imperative for the Christian faith, particularly during the high holidays like Good Friday and Easter. Fellowship is fundamental to the core of the church, the ekklesia, for the “assembly” is what we are called. But during this time of CoVid 19 quarantine, we need to be careful with the other metaphor for the Church, the “body of Christ.” Inasmuch as we are a body, this virus puts us all at risk. As one body, Paul reminds us to care for our weaker members. In this instance, those most vulnerable to infection, those most at risk of succumbing, often those core older of chronically infirm members of our congregations.
During this period we should fellowship; but our fellowship should be virtual, employing the technology God has given us to protect the “weaker” members, so that the whole body remains whole. God stands with us in these perilous times. Whether in the building together or individually in our homes, God remains with us. The one who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” the one who said, “I am with you until the end of the age” is true. We do not have to worry, even as we protect Christ’s body in quarantine, the Lord is with us, still. And after this period of intentional physical separation, just as Christ was resurrected, our communal fellowship will be as well. Of this we can be sure.”
Rabbi Dr. Marc Gopin, Professor at the Carter School, George Mason University stated: “Now is the time for all religious communities to embrace their common commitment to the absolute sacredness of every life, to embrace the heroic work of the medical community on the front lines, and to demonstrate their love for their communities by moving all ritual, social, celebratory and grieving expressions online exclusively.”
Dr. Paul Zeitz, physician epidemiologist, Co-Chair COVID-19 Emergency Response Group and Founder of Build A Movement 2020 stated: “Urgent action is needed to reduce COVID-19 transmission during April 2020. All religious leaders should urgently restrict and eliminate religious gatherings and implement virtual prayer experiences during Easter, Passover, and Ramadan. Rigorous physical distancing can reduce COVID-19 transmission and literally save the lives of your community.”
The “COVID-19 Emergency Response Group” was formed in March 2020 by leading public health experts, faith and business leaders, former senior Congressional Hill staffers, local and state elected officials, and leaders of national NGOs. Our mission is to mobilize the citizen’s voice to save as many lives as possible.