An outbreak at a Pentecostal church in Oregon, where hundreds of worshipers resumed gathering over Memorial Day weekend, forced an entire county to return to phase one of its reopening after local officials traced 258 cases of Covid-19 back to the facility. In West Virginia, six health departments across the state have reported coronavirus outbreaks linked to churches. One of them, a Baptist church in Greenbrier County, had 34 congregants test positive for the virus. And in Texas, which hit an all-time high of new cases last week, health officials have received numerous reports of church-related exposures.
The disturbing trend did not stop Trump and other senior administration officials from visiting an Arizona mega-church this week for a “Students for Trump” rally, where MAGA ball caps were far more ubiquitous than face masks. Images from the event — showing hundreds of mask-less teenagers sitting in close quarters for the president’s remarks — embodied the predicament Trump now faces: Many of his Christian supporters rushed to embrace the country’s reopening, which has included the return of in-person worship services in many states. Now, re-imposing previous restrictions to protect other Americans could impair the president’s relationship with his own base.