As the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis continues across the globe, the United States has become the world’s epicenter for both infections and deaths with about a third of all reported cases.
The world’s reported cases of the virus now teeter near 2 million with more than 120,000 deaths. It was only 11 days ago that the worldwide figure reached 1 million, a demonstration of how fast the virus spreads.
In the U.S., the first case of the virus was confirmed on Jan. 21 in Washington state. More than a month later, on Feb. 29, the U.S. reported its first death, also in Washington state.
Today, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is more than 580,000 with 23,654 deaths.
More than 195,000 U.S. cases, about a third, have been confirmed in New York state, by far the most cases in the nation. While no other state comes close to those numbers, 13 states are reporting more than 10,000 cases. Among them is neighboring Louisiana with more than 21,000 cases.
Louisiana, particularly the southern part of the state, is among the nations’ COVID-19 hot spots. With 884 reported deaths from the virus, its death rate is among the highest in the nation, at 14 per 100,000 population. Only New York and New Jersey have higher rates.
Despite the statistics, at least one large Louisiana church is flouting the state’s ban on gatherings of over ten people. An estimated 500 worshipers gathered for Easter services at the Life Tabernacle church in Central, a town of about 29,000 outside Baton Rouge.
In New Orleans, where the case count is the highest in the state, police broke up a “funeral repast” of about 100 people on Saturday. Orleans parish has reported 5,651 cases and 244 deaths as of Sunday.
More than 300 complaints of large gatherings have been investigated by Louisiana authorities since Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered residents to shelter in place on March 23.
Edwards called those who don’t comply with his orders “grossly irresponsible” on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, specifically mentioning Pastor Tony Spell of the Life Tabernacle Church.
“There is not a setting more conducive to the spread of the virus, as far as I know … like we have when we have church services with people sitting in close proximity to one another for an hour or two at a time,” Edward said. “And so, it is irresponsible. Obviously, he is violating the order. He has been served a summons on that. I would hope that he would stop. And law enforcement has this very much in their sights. And I support the actions that they’re taking.”
Central Police Department Chief Roger Corcoran also spoke out about Spell in a Facebook post.
“This is not an issue over religious liberty, and it’s not about politics,” Corcoran wrote. “We are facing a public health crisis and expect our community’s leaders to set a positive example and follow the law.”
East Baton Rouge Parish, where Central is located, has reported 1,273 cases and 52 deaths.See a typo? Report it here.