United House Of Prayer Can Reopen, County Health Officials Say
Mecklenburg County health officials on Friday said the United House of Prayer for All People can reopen its facilities provided it cooperates with certain health guidelines. The county health department had previously ordered the church to close all of its county locations because of a large number of coronavirus cases.
“Over the last three to four days, the national [United House of Prayer] leadership has been working with us and has agreed to increase access as well as cooperation,” county public health director Gibbie Harris said at a press conference on Friday.
Harris said health officials visited all of the church’s locations in the county on Wednesday and Thursday. She said pastors and staff were “very responsive and engaged” and “willing to work with the county.” Harris said officials offered to let the church’s main facility on Beatties Ford Road reopen at limited capacity but the church declined.
“The last we’ve heard from the United House of Prayer is that they will continue to keep that particular facility closed,” she said.
As of Friday, 181 coronavirus cases and six deaths had been linked to a multi-day event earlier this month at a United House of Prayer location on Beatties Ford Road, according to county numbers. Last weekend, officials ordered the church to shut down its facilities in an order of abatement of imminent hazard. The order said, among other things, that the church didn’t take necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and “failed to or refused to respond to” health department requests. The order was set to last until Nov. 6.
Earlier this week, county manager Dena Diorio said in a message to county commissioners that a legal team representing the church contacted the county, The Charlotte Observer reported.
“UHOP holds services seven days per week and they believe that the order is an overreach,” Diorio reportedly said.
The United House of Prayer has not responded to repeated phone calls and voicemails from WFAE but as of this weekend, it appeared the church was complying with the initial county order.
On Sunday, WFAE visited several United House of Prayer locations and saw between three and 12 cars in each parking lot. A voicemail for one church location’s cafeteria on Monday said “The cafeteria is temporarily closed until Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.”
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