Review: Hammond (Indiana) police cite church for holding Sunday service in violation of state order – More community education may be needed

This article discusses how police cited a church in Northwest Indiana for violating the state stay-at-home order after more than 30 people attended Sunday morning services.

The church attempted to claim that they were offering an “essential” service.

Indiana’s stay-at-home order does consider religious entities “essential services” ; however, the state’s guidance also requires that the religious entity “adhere to the CDC’s guidance on social gatherings.” The main state website does not provide a direct link to the CDC guidance. Furthermore, the CDC’s “Interim Guidance for Administrators and Leaders of Community- and Faith-Based Organizations to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” which was last updated on March 21, 2020, makes three distinct statements, and includes an infographic to aid in decision making (see below):

  • In times of “Minimal to Moderate Community Spread” – a term that is not clearly defined on the CDC page – the CDC recommends taking the following steps:
    • Collaborate with Local Health Officials, then
    • Implement multiple social distancing strategies (e.g., cancel/postpone/modify gatherings; limit facility access)
  • In times of “Substantial Community Spread” – another term not clearly defined on the CDC page – the CDC recommends:
    • Collaborate with Local Health Officials, then
    • Cancel or postpone gatherings of any size
  • The CDC guidance also recommends following the guidance issued by the White House (the CDC site states it was issued on March 21, 2020; the White House indicates it was issued March 16, 2020), advising that religious entities avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people.

As of April 5, 2020, Lake County, Indiana had 369 positive COVID-19 cases. This would appear to qualify as “Substantial Community Spread” under the CDC guidelines.

Nevertheless, in light of the lack of total alignment of the above statements, it would be helpful if the state explicitly stated on its main COVID-19 website that there is Substantial Community Spread of COVID-19 across the state, and therefore, following CDC guidelines, in-person gatherings of any size should be canceled or postponed.

CDC Guidance on Social Gatherings during COVID-19

|2020-04-06T14:06:31-04:00April 6th, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|Comments Off on Review: Hammond (Indiana) police cite church for holding Sunday service in violation of state order – More community education may be needed

About the Author: Ross Silverman

Ross Silverman
Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH, is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health and Professor of Public Health and Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. He is a member of the IU Centers on Health Policy and Bioethics. His research focuses on public health and medical law, policy, and ethics, and law's impact on health outcomes and vulnerable populations. He also serves as Associate Editor on Legal Epidemiology for Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. His most recent Covid-19 publications include: "Ensuring Uptake of Vaccines Against SARS-CoV-2" in the New England Journal of Medicine (with MM Mello & SB Omer), and "Covid-19: control measures must be equitable and inclusive" in BMJ (with ZD Berger, NG Evans & AL Phelan)

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