Baltimore Archdiocese Plans to Allow Public Masses Despite No Decline in Coronavirus Cases

The Baltimore Archdiocese has given parishes the green light to reopen for public masses just as the White House coronavirus task force team warned that the city where the Roman Catholic See is based, is one of the country's hot spots for the disease.

The decision by Archdiocese, whose parishes serve the city of Baltimore and nine counties in Maryland, comes after the order on Friday by President Donald Trump to reopen places of worship across the country.

Trump said at the White House on Friday that he would be prepared to "override the governors" in reopening churches, mosques and synagogues, adding that, "in America, we need more prayer, not less."

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is seen June 23, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Archdiocese says parishes can reopen for public masses from the end of May. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said that religious facilities in the state could open to the public as long as they did not breach more than 50 percent of their capacity and follow other restrictions.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said masses could start up again from next weekend in those areas where more than 10 people are allowed to gather.

"The guidance is informed by Church doctrine, expert medical advice, and federal, state and local recommendations for maintaining public safety and preventing community contagion of the COVID-19 virus," it said.

Churches had already reopened on May 15 for private prayer and sacraments such as baptisms, weddings and funerals, as long as there were no more than 10 people present.

From May 30, public masses can begin "at the pastor's discretion and where it is permissible to do so based on conditions in the local jurisdiction," the Archdiocese said on its website.

However the move comes as Baltimore was among cities singled out by Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force as having among the highest levels of the coronavirus in the country.

"The number one metro with the highest positivity rate is the District of Columbia, which includes Northern Virginia and in Maryland, Montgomery County and [Prince George's] County.

"That is followed by Baltimore, Chicago, and Minneapolis," Birx said. "And so these are the places where we have seen really a stalling or an increase in cases as in Minneapolis."

Other religious communities have expressed reluctance to reopen, despite the president's announcement. The National Council of Churches said it was following the advice it got from members of the CDC and church leaders, and that "there is no reason that we should be opening worship services yet, it's just too dangerous."

"Too much is still unknown about how the coronavirus spreads and how it can be treated. While some locations are just beginning to experience a downturn in cases and deaths, it is too early to rush back to church," the statement said.

Meanwhile a survey by Nationscape suggested that only 48 percent of people who attended religious services before the COVID-19 outbreak are ready to return to worship, regardless of what health officials said.

The infographic below, provided by Statista, shows the U.S. states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases across the U.S. as of May 22.

The U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases.
The U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases. STATISTA