I live in a suburb about 10 minutes from Detroit, one of the hotspots of the COVID-19 outbreak. Gretchen Whitmer, our governor, or “The Woman From Michigan” as Donald Trump has called her, has actually been handling the pandemic pretty well, with one minor exception. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the stay at home order that went into effect on March 24. Religious institutions are not immune to COVID-19, as evidenced by Patient 31 in South Korea.
If you don’t know about Patient 31, here is a quick rundown. Patient 31 is a 61 year-old South Korean woman who went to church before exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, and caused the infections of thousands of people.
I’m bringing this up because on Saturday, I was helping to unload a truck at my retail job when one of my coworkers mentioned that he had been out all day, including at church. He said this after handing me several boxes. He also said that he had lost 3 family members to COVID-19.
Our company has taken several precautions against COVID-19 including limiting the amount of people allowed in the store, shortening store hours, and giving workers 2 extra weeks of emergency paid leave, among other things. Unfortunately, they can’t protect us from what the other workers do outside of work.
None of the precautions my company has taken had prepared me for the emotions I would feel about a young man deliberately putting other people’s lives in danger because he felt the need to go to church. I spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom trying to compose myself, I then finished my shift and went home. I spent a lot of Saturday night and very early Sunday morning crying. I called the manager and told her about what had transpired, elected to take my 2 weeks of emergency leave, and drank a large glass of wine to calm my nerves.
All of this is just a long way of saying that church is not an essential service. It is literally physically dangerous to go to church right now. Please stay home.