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Trump wants churches open, but no changes to Maryland restrictions expected

President Donald Trump holds a briefing Friday to announce that churches and houses of worship are "essential" and should reopen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump holds a briefing Friday to announce that churches and houses of worship are "essential" and should reopen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)(Alex Brandon/AP)

President Donald Trump on Friday said churches and houses of worship are “essential” and should reopen this weekend.

But Maryland’s order limiting religious worship to no more than 50% capacity — along with further restrictions in Baltimore City and several counties — remains in place.

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The Republican president did not issue a legal order requiring churches to open, even though he indicated that church reopenings were a requirement. He said he was correcting an “injustice” that churches have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He called upon governors to open churches.

“If they don’t do it, I will override the governors,” Trump said during a White House news conference Friday.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued non-binding guidelines for religious leaders to consider when they do open, such as undertaking regular cleanings, encouraging worshipers to wear masks and keeping people six feet apart.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide order allows in-person religious services, so long as leaders keep attendance to 50% of the institution’s capacity, but gives local governments the ability to have stricter rules. The Republican governor’s office said Friday the order remains in place.

Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he would be powerless if the Trump administration were to issue a legal order.

“But I will tell you this: Most of the ministers are smart enough to know whether it is safe to reopen," Young said during a news conference Friday.

Young, a Democrat, has kept in place a stay-at-home order that limits travel to essential trips and keeps most businesses closed. He’s pressed Trump to cancel a planned visit to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine on Monday, saying it would be counter to the city’s rules and serve as a poor example.

Several jurisdictions have kept tighter restrictions in place that limit all gatherings — including religious worship — to no more than 10 people at a time. Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have the stricter rules in place.

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