President Donald Trump on Friday demanded that governors reopen churches, synagogues and mosques "right now", threatening to override them if they do not do so by the weekend.
Trump's push to return churchgoers to pews that have been empty for weeks comes just days after churches in Georgia and Texas, both states with Republican governors, announced that they would close again after experiencing acute outbreaks of the virus after they opened.
"I want to get our country back to normal", Trump told reporters outside the White House Thursday. Some have chafed at the restrictions.
President Trump calls for houses of faith to open this weekend and says if local governments get in the way, he will override the governors. These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united.
Trump said Thursday that he was consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to craft guidelines for the safe reopening.
At the same time, state bans on "non-essential" activity across the country have caused massive job losses, with more than 33 million Americans filing for unemployment and studies predicting that tens of thousands of small businesses that have closed down will never reopen. White evangelicals have been among Trump's strongest supporters.
The White House reaffirmed the president's interest in getting churches reopened. She also said people with risk factors or comorbidities in communities with a high number of cases may consider staying away for now. "If there's any question, they're going to have to call me, but they're not going to be successful in that call".
"But there is way to social distance.in places of worship", she said.