Florida churches get blessing to stay open amid coronavirus crisis, per governor’s order


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A letter from Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp asks Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to “act in due haste” to allow local leaders to make the call when it comes to large gatherings.

Earlier in the week, the governor made his own rules when dealing with the coronavirus crisis, rules that trumped local leaders and their decision-making.

“I was stunned. I was stunned,” the commissioner said.

8 On Your Side spoke to Kemp via FaceTime. She said she understands the dangers of large gatherings as the virus spreads rapidly.

“These kind of religious services are the biggest vectors we’re seeing around the country. It was two funerals in Albany, Georgia, that set off a huge infection in Georgia,” Kemp said.

It is a scene she does not want to play out in the Tampa Bay area, she said.

“There is no reason that this would need to be done. Churches may be essential, but it’s not essential to be in a building all together, and affect the community at large,” said Dr. Jeffery Johnson, the Senior Pastor at Connections Community Church, which has locations in Tampa and Lake Wales.

In-person services are on hold until more is known about the virus, the pastor said.

8 On Your Side spoke to him via FaceTime. He told us he plans more virtual conversations going forward.

“Until things change, we’ll prepare for our services via Facebook Live,” he said.

8 On Your Side reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but has not heard back.


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