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California Sees Large Outdoor Worship Events Despite Virus

General overall view of the cross atop the St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church...

Photo by Kirby Lee / AP

Above: General overall view of the cross atop the St. Stephen Martyr Catholic Church amid the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Sunday, April 26, 2020, in Monterey Park, Calif.

Even as coronavirus cases rise across California, hundreds of people gathered at the beach in Orange County for a religious event despite warnings from local officials.

The Los Angeles Times reports Sunday several hundred people met in Huntington Beach Friday for Saturate OC, a weekly worship event that has been held since early July after the pandemic thwarted organizers' plans to hold it indoors. Organizers provided hand sanitizers and masks, but many participants didn't wear them.

Police cited 34-year-old Parker Green over allegedly promoting the event without a permit, a violation that carries a potential $1,000 fine, said police spokeswoman Angela Bennett. The city said in a statement that it supports religious organizations' right to worship but permitting and safety protocols must be followed.

Green said he's concerned about the virus but questioned why they were targeted when he sees crowds of people walking through the city's downtown area not wearing face coverings.

“When is it enforceable and when is it not?” he asked the newspaper.

California has been struggling with a rise in virus cases, reporting another 8,259 confirmed cases on Sunday to bring the state's total to more than 450,000. The state has now recorded more than 8,400 deaths.

As numbers have risen, some California counties have imposed fines for individuals violating public health orders and strike teams have checked businesses for violations of health mandates.

Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom banned all indoor dining, closed bars and barred indoor religious services, gyms and salons in much of the state in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

Some religious leaders have been calling for large outdoor worship services. Earlier this week, an event was held in Redding that drew crowds of people, many not wearing masks. Shasta County health officials said in a statement that the group was too large for the area and there was inadequate physical distancing.

In Orange County, officials determined the Saturate OC event should be limited to fewer than 100 people and had asked organizers to postpone it to obtain a permit and follow health and safety protocols, the city's statement said.

Organizers said they will search for a new location for future events.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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