ORLANDO, Fla. – In light of Holy Week, Gov. Ron DeSantis has a prayer for religious Floridians during the coronavirus pandemic: “Please keep God close, but please keep COVID-19 away.”
Just one day after Palm Sunday and ahead of Passover and Easter, the governor said in a news conference Monday that he’s been in contact with religious leaders throughout the state regarding their plans to celebrate the holidays without furthering the spread of COVID-19.
Since the start of the outbreak, religious groups across Florida have had to get creative with ways to worship while practicing social distancing, offering services online and even drive-in worship opportunities.
DeSantis asked that religious leaders continue to practice social distancing measures in the coming weeks and avoid large gatherings.
“I think that that will ultimately be something that matters a lot to people, but we also pointed out the risks of having, you know, a packed gathering right now given what we’re going through," DeSantis said. “In fact, you know, you look at different parts around the country, there have been different events, such as -- you know, I was talking to the Georgia governor. They had a big funeral and that really spread throughout the folks there, so it would be a potential to have a super spreader, and that would eventually have really serious health consequences to folks, so we want people during this time to be spiritually together, but to remain socially distant. Please keep God close, but please keep COVID-19 away."
Last week, a Florida megachurch pastor was arrested after detectives said he held two Sunday services with hundreds of people and violated a safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.
Also last week, DeSantis signed a statewide stay-at-home order, asking all Floridians to limit social interactions outside their homes to only essential activities for 30 days.
Section 3 of the order, which covers “essential activities,” includes “attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship.”