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Black clergy take questions to Parson

JEFFERSON CITY – Black clergy leaders from around Missouri spoke with Gov. Mike Parson on Friday via conference call to discuss the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus on African-Americans.
The call from members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition was organized by longtime pastor and activist the Rev. Darryl Gray, who said in a press release that in light of the devastating effect that the pandemic has had on black Missourians, they wanted to know specifics about his office’s initiatives and resources to address the problem.
Parson has held weekly conference calls with faith leaders, but most of the discussions have been general, with few details.
Gray’s group asked Parson about a coordinated effort for contact tracing; designation of service industry workers as essential personnel, with personal protection equipment; and collection and public release of data according to racial demographics.
The clergy pushed for more testing, especially for people in lower-income jobs that tend to involve close contact with the public. Parson plans to start allowing many businesses to reopen as of May 3, but that stirred concern for those vulnerable workers.
“What is your justification for opening up the state when we don’t have testing?” he was asked.
Parson responded, “I know we’re going to be able to do more testing. I firmly believe that that’s going to happen, and we are doing that as I speak.”
He said that different areas of the state would reopen at different times and that urban areas would probably have to keep their stay-at-home orders longer.
They want Parson to provide resources to civic and faith groups to help them help people in need. And they want him to commit to listen to advice from black leaders. 
They also want Parson to put together a plan for mail-in voting for the 2020 elections ahead.
“It is often said that ‘When America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia,'” Gray said in his statement. “That adage has rung true during this pandemic, especially in the St. Louis region.”
He added, “We felt that we needed to heard directly from the governor about these and other issues.”
Trump consults faith leaders on phased-in reopening

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump held a call with faith leaders on Friday that included discussion about a phased-in return to broader in-person worship after weeks of religious services largely shifting online in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s call with faith leaders came one day after the White House included houses of worship among “large venues” that could be able to reopen while observing “strict physical distancing protocols” in the first stage of a three-part plan to reopen a U.S. economy that’s been frozen by the toll of the highly contagious virus.

The call included representatives of multiple Christian denominations as well as Jewish and Islamic leaders, according to a statement distributed by the White House.

Participants in the call with faith leaders said it featured discussion about how restarting in-person worship could work, without any conclusion reached, and underscored their commitment to not imperiling the health of the faithful. Indeed, Trump has said that governors would be empowered to spearhead their states’ paces of economic reopening.

The faith leaders’ conversation with Trump is not the only sign that religious leaders are beginning to explore how to resume in-person worship services. The Christian executive search firm Vanderbloemen has launched and websites to start a conversation on that process.

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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