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Los Angeles County public health officials are asking residents to avoid attending religious services despite recent court rulings that reversed such bans on indoor worship.
The request comes as California topped 2 million COVID-19 cases, according to government figures. Religious services became a point of contention as county officials issued lockdown orders and some places of worship have opened in defiance.
"No matter what a Superior Court judge says and given what’s happening now, it is simply too risky to gather indoors with other people who do not live with you," the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Thursday in a statement.
The county reversed its indoor worship ban over the weekend after a Supreme Court ruling that sided with a Southern California church that challenged the restrictions.
Around 14,000 Los Angeles County residents are testing positive for the coronavirus each day, the Public Health Department said. In addition, overwhelmed hospitals are admitting 1,000 COVID-19 positive patients daily and capacity in intensive care units is dangerously low.
As of Thursday, the county had 355 ICU beds available, according to figures.
"Now, most unfortunately, is not the time to attend indoor religious services," health officials said in a statement. "The County of Los Angeles is in the midst of its highest surge of COVID-19 cases. The local emergency rooms and hospitals are over-capacity. And there are no indications of an end in sight to the current surge."
Officials asked that people worship at outdoor services or via a streaming service.
Worshipers gather for a Christmas Eve Mass inside a Los Angeles church. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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In a statement, the Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministries said it will continue to fight against Gov. Gavin Newsom's restrictions that impact its other Southern California locations.
"The option to attend church in the house of God is a sacred right that we intend to protect for both our family and friends," the statement said on the group’s website. "We are providing people an option to continue watching our services online, and for those without symptoms or health risks, we are also providing the option to meet in-person."
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