Thousands of people are expected to gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday for a prayer rally, and participants are not required to wear masks, triggering concerns this could become a super spreader event.
Up to 15,000 people are expected to attend Let Us Worship from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Dr. Glenn Wortmann, chief of infectious diseases at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, says it’s very difficult to protect yourself from COVID-19 at these types of large gatherings.
“It’s concerning,” he said. “I mean, anytime there's a group of a large number of people in one area, there is a potential for spread. The fact that the event is happening outside makes the risk lower.”
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The D.C. event is the last stop on a national tour that has drawn controversy. Event leader and evangelist Sean Feucht has said he’s holding worship protests in defiance of coronavirus restrictions. At those events, many attendees could be seen not wearing masks.
Feucht’s group did submit a COVID-19 mitigation plan outlining precautions for those working the event, not for those attending.
“We will have a sign placed at the table where we will give away Bibles,” Let Us Worship Tour said. “All crew will have temperatures taken, masks and gloves provided. Backstage high-touch areas will be sanitized frequently. Sanitation stations provided by restrooms for audience.”
Because the event is being held on federal land, D.C. does not have a say in what happens.
Organizers did get a permit from the National Park Service.
“While the National Park Service strongly encourages social distancing, the use of face coverings and other measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, we will not require nor enforce their use,” the National Park Service said in a statement.
Facebook videos show the events feature prayer, singing and mass baptisms.
These events have come under criticism from public health officials in other cities as well.
“Ideally, you want people to take personal responsibility and wear masks to protect both themselves and the people around them,” Wortmann said.
News4 made multiple attempts to reach out to the organizers for comment but has not heard back.