NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) — Baptized in the Pacific Ocean and singing hymns in the grass, hundreds of people from 80 different churches stood shoulder to shoulder at Newport Beach Friday night.
The large group was gathering in violation of Orange County’s ban on mass gatherings in light of the coronavirus pandemic to worship together outside after their places of worship were ordered closed for the second time.
Parker Green organized the large gathering, the second his faith group Saturate OC has held in the past two weeks. The first, held last week in Huntington Beach, ended in a citation.
“I mean, they’re recommending, obviously, social distancing,” he said. “We’re handing out masks and stuff like that.”
But police in Newport Beach allowed the gathering to continue without taking any enforcement action.
“People are far more afraid of losing their civil liberties in the long run than getting sick from something that has a 99.9% recovery rate in California,” Green said.
When asked if the group was concerned about the potential of unknowingly spreading COVID-19 to others, Green said people have faith that they won’t — even though Orange County recently surpassed Riverside County with the second highest number of reported coronavirus cases in the state.
“We have to be realistic about the destruction that the isolation has been causing,” Alisa Reale, a Costa Mesa resident, said.
She said the bigger concern should be the impact of months-long shutdowns have on people’s mental and emotional health.
“We wanna worship, we wanna go to church, we wanna support each other,” Lana Hall, a South Coast resident, said.
Hall said she believes holding services in an open air environment was a better way to do it.
At least one person who went to the faith gathering said they understood what health officials had to say, but that they answered to a “higher power.”