Churches, Which Account for 0.02% of COVID-19 Cases, Are a ‘Major Source’ of Infection, The New York Times Says by JACOB SULLUM for Reason
The paper’s claim reflects the same arbitrary distinction between religious and secular activities that churches are challenging in court.
“Churches Were Eager to Reopen,” says the headline over a story in today’s New York Times. “Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Infections.”
The not-so-subtle subtext: Reopening churches was reckless, because they are more likely than other venues to be the sites of superspreading events, regardless of the precautions they take. But the evidence presented by the Times does not support that thesis.
“More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic,” the Times says, “with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities.”
The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the United States is now 3.1 million, meaning the church-related cases identified by the Times account for 0.02 percent of the total. On the face of it, that does not seem like “a major source of coronavirus infections.” And there are something like 385,000 churches in the U.S., so the ones tied to COVID-19 infections represent around 0.01 percent of Christian congregations.
Also note that the Times is talking about church-related infections “since the beginning of the pandemic,” so its tally of 650 does not even tell us what has happened since services resumed after lockdowns were lifted, which is ostensibly the story’s focus. The article says “many” of those infections happened during the last month, but it never says how many.
More to the point, the Times never says how churches compare to other settings—such as bars, restaurants, offices, factories, house parties, and Memorial Day or Independence Day gatherings—as a source of virus transmission. Even if half of the infections tallied by the Times happened recently, that would still mean other sources account for around 99.8 percent of newly confirmed cases since mid-May, when testing should have begun detecting post-lockdown infections.