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Pence expected to brief faith leaders in second coronavirus call in two weeks

CNN logo CNN 03.04.2020 01:40:31 By Joe Johns, Daniel Burke and Nikki Carvajal, CNN
Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Anthony S. Fauci are posing for a picture © Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

For at least the second time in two weeks, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to hold a conference call with faith leaders and other conservatives to bring them up to date on the rapidly changing coronavirus pandemic.

A source who was on the last call, on March 23, told CNN that the first call involved about 20 people. Thursday's call is expected to include a much larger group. A senior administration official said it would include more than 500 "grassroots leaders" from across the country.

Bing COVID-19 tracker: Latest numbers by country and state

The calls have been organized as part of Pence's "public liaison function" in his role leading the White House coronavirus task force. The content of the last call was described as "not much different" than the kind of information shared in the daily White House coronavirus briefings.

On the first call, Pence talked about President Donald Trump's social distancing guidelines to stress to people "if we do this we can have a better outcome."

"A lot of this is desire to have an additional communication portal to get the word out," the source said. 

A White House official said the administration has been hosting routine calls with various groups including inter-faith, nonprofits, small businesses, industries, military families and veterans.

"The President and his administration are committed to getting the latest health information and CDC guidelines to as many communities as possible to help slow the spread of the virus," the official added.

Churches and religious groups have been areas of particular interest for the administration because of the high amount of support for both Trump and Pence in the evangelical community, and Covid-19 presents special challenges for faith leaders.

Last month, a pastor at a Louisiana church was charged for continuing to hold services, defying a local bans on gatherings of 50 or more people. And in Florida, an evangelical pastor was arrested for holding large services at Tampa megachurch.

Asked if conservative faith leaders were concerned about those reports, the source said "no one is happy about the fact that churches are closed -- though (we don't know) what happened with those guys in Tampa and Louisiana."

In some places, the churches have beenexempted from social distancing guidelines because of first amendment freedom of religion considerations. But in the last call Pence adhered to discussing the "virus and the guidelines."

Publicly, the vice president has thanked the faith community in recent days for adhering to those guidelines.

"We're so grateful to churches and synagogues and places of worship around America that have heeded the President's coronavirus guidelines for America," Pence told ABC news on Wednesday, referring to federal recommendations that encourage people to keep a distance from one another and not hold large gatherings.

"We really believe this is a time when people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people," Pence had said. "And, and so, we continue to urge churches around America to heed to that."

The upside for most churches that expect to remain closed from Palm Sunday, which occurs this weekend, through Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter next week, is that churches that offer streaming video and audio of their services have seen their audiences skyrocket.

Some of that may be due to the President himself. In a tweet last month, Trump pushed audiences toward online services.

"Tomorrow I have called for a National Day of Prayer. I will be tuning in to Pastor @Jentezen at the @FreeChapel Church in Gainesville, Georgia at 11:00 AM EDT. God Bless the USA!," he tweeted, with a link to the services.

3. huhtikuuta 2020 4:40:31 Categories: CNN NowToLove

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