Dozens of people gather at Charlotte church even after health director bans mass gatherings

Dozens of people gather at Charlotte church even after health director bans mass gatherings
Parking was hard to come by at the United House of Prayer on Sunday. (Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Cars parked on the sidewalk Sunday after spaces in the designated lot of a Charlotte church filled up quickly.

Five days after Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris banned gatherings of 50 or more people, people gathered at the United House of Prayer on Statesville Avenue.

But even though the order stresses that COVID-19 “is easily transmitted, especially in group settings, and it is essential that the spread of the virus be slowed to protect the ability of public and private health care providers to handle the influx of new patients and safeguard public health and safety,” and demanded the immediate closure of gyms, fitness centers, health clubs and theaters, it made an exception for places of worship.

United House of Prayer

“In talking with our legal department and considering the implications, the decision was made not to include churches,” Harris said at a press conference on Thursday.

The county told WBTV that the executive order is not enforceable for churches at this time. However, it continued, that it strongly urges that all churches compile with the order.

Dr. Nelson, a representative for the United House of Prayer in Charlotte, said the group wasn’t there for a church service. He said a large contingent of people parked their cars at the church to head to Miami, Florida, for a service there, which celebrated the church’s 100th year.

He claimed 10-15 people were at the church holding “band practice.” A WBTV photographer saw more than 20 people at the church around noon on Sunday.

Many churches in the area are now live-streaming their services. St. Ann Catholic Church on Park Road held their Sunday Mass inside the window of the second-floor conference room so that people parked directly below could watch from their cars.

“We have reached out to (churches) and we’ve talked to them about social distancing,” Harris said Thursday. "I know a number of them are doing video services and looking at other ways… We are strongly recommending that but haven’t required it at this point.”

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