New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms is thankful that, as of the end of April, coronavirus deaths in the Empire State have substantially decreased from the peak level that we experienced several weeks ago. While our battle with this deadly pandemic is by no means over, and while those afflicted with COVID-19 continue to need our prayers and our support, this is an encouraging sign.
Because of the progress that has been made in fighting COVID-19, many New Yorkers are understandably eager to begin working, attending school, worshiping together in person, and engaging in other everyday activities. On April 28, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to gradually lift coronavirus-related restrictions on a region-by-region basis. The Governor has a 12-point plan for each of the state’s 10 regions (Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mid-Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Long Island, Southern Tier and Western New York) to follow as they gradually resume regular activity. Pursuant to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), no region will begin the process until it has reached a 14-day decline in the COVID-19 hospitalization rate. Businesses will re-open in two phases, the first of which will involve “low-risk” industries like construction and manufacturing, and the second of which will involve other industries on a priority basis “based on priority and risk level.” The Governor’s 12-point plan also contains elements relating to health care, workplace safety, and the establishment of systems for testing people for COVID-19 and tracing the impact of the coronavirus. Gov. Cuomo has also established a 100-person New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board.
The impact of Gov. Cuomo’s 12-point plan upon churches and other houses of worship remains to be seen. The fact that there is only one (1) member of the clergy on the Governor’s Advisory Board and that this individual is representing a private college, not a house of worship, is not promising. New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) once again calls upon the Governor to issue an executive order that alleviates the existing confusion surrounding parking lot church services by clearly stating that they not prohibited. Also, we again call upon Gov. Cuomo to allow drive-in movie theaters to re-open; this action would give some churches another avenue for in-person church services. Finally, NYCF calls upon the Governor to add pastors and other clergy to his Advisory Board, and to work with them to facilitate the re-opening of New York’s houses of worship as soon as it is safe to do so.