Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday encouraged people to be “spiritually together but to remain socially distant” during the upcoming religious holidays.

“Please keep God close but COVID-19 away,” DeSantis said at a news conference.

DeSantis said his administration has over the past few days been in contact with Christian and Jewish leaders across the state to discuss upcoming plans for Easter and Passover celebrations. During those calls, DeSantis said they discussed the risks of crowded religious gatherings and how such events can serve as what he called a “super spreader” of the coronavirus, the cause of the deadly COVID-19 respiratory disease.

“There have been different events, such as I was talking to the Georgia governor. They had a big funeral, and that really spread throughout the folks there,” DeSantis said, referring to a funeral in Albany, Ga., that health officials maintain served as the epicenter of a COVID-19 outbreak. “So, it would be a potential to have a super spreader. That would eventually have really serious health consequences to folks.”

DeSantis last week issued a stay-at-home order directing residents to stay indoors until April 30. DeSantis’s order, though, allowed certain “essential” services and activities, including such things as outdoor exercising, to continue and encouraged that social-distancing policies be followed.

DeSantis’s order also exempted activities related to religious services in churches, synagogues and other types of houses of worship. There were no caveats to require people attending the services to social distance.

As of Monday afternoon, Florida had 13,324 cases of COVID-19 and 236 Florida residents had died.

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