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Today in Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now: A Christian activist plans to host two large concerts in Echo Park and downtown Los Angeles, even as area hospitals are pushed to their limits due to the recent spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. An opposing group of activists hopes to stop the concerts and prevent a surge of infections among L.A.’s vulnerable unhoused population.
Sean Feucht — dubbed “Jesus Christ Superspreader” by Rolling Stone — is a 37-year-old pastor, musician and failed Republican congressional candidate from Redding, California. Last December, Feucht was present at a White House gathering of religious leaders. He is seen reaching out and touching President Donald Trump’s arm because, according to his Instagram post, “I thought we were all laying hands on you — or at least I was!”
Over the past several months, Feucht has publicly objected to restrictions on gatherings, particularly those limiting religious services, by holding concerts and using the hashtag #letusworship. Images from these events show attendees close to each other without wearing masks.
In Los Angeles — now considered the epicenter of the pandemic — Feucht plans to hold not one but two concerts. The first is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. in skid row. On New Year’s Eve, his schedule includes an event in the morning in Echo Park Lake and a concert in Valencia at 9 p.m. A video promoting the events shows more mask-free revelers set to dramatic music.
Local activists are particularly concerned about unmasked droves dancing and singing — an activity thought to spread respiratory droplets even further than just talking — in areas where unhoused individuals live in encampments.
Jenna Kyle with the Poor People’s Campaign told CBS Los Angeles that she believes the concert will be a “superspreader event,” pointing to the disregard for public health recommendations that participants have shown at previous events in other cities.
“This is a public health crisis, and I don’t think you need to be loving Jesus in L.A. right now in this manner,” Kyle said.
On Twitter, Feucht called the CBS story a “hit piece” while misrepresenting Kyle’s statement by shortening it to “I don’t think you need to be loving Jesus in L.A. right now,” which certainly changed its meaning.
“You can’t make this up,” he wrote — although that is exactly what he did when he altered Kyle’s quote.
Despite the high rate of infection, city and public health officials have said little about the event. In a statement, L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León, whose district includes skid row, told the L.A. Times that he and other city officials expect those taking part in the event will “take steps to care for our community and protect vulnerable Angelenos on skid row by wearing masks and honoring social distancing guidelines.”
Except that they haven’t. So a group of activists, including Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie, pastor of skid row’s Church Without Walls, are planning an in-car blockade to prevent people from getting to the concert site. The group says Feucht’s concert is a “planned assault” on skid row, one that is “particularly egregious because it’s a predominantly Black community experiencing structural and institutional racism, injustices that rival conditions found in Third World countries.” Those interested in attending the caravan are advised to message their contact info to the organizers.
Yesterday, L.A. County announced 227 COVID-19 deaths — a number partially augmented by a backlog caused by recent Spectrum outages — and 12,979 new cases. According to the county Department of Public Health, hospitalizations have increased by nearly 1,000% since Oct. 29.
Dec. 30, 2020 - 4:35 p.m. — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has issued a revised “legally binding” health order prohibiting all public and private events and gatherings. Failure to comply may result in a fine, imprisonment or both.
“We urge every resident in Los Angeles County to follow the health officer order and avoid organizing and attending gatherings that include people outside their own household,” reads a statement from the public health department. “The highest risk settings are large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and where face coverings are not worn. The consequences of these large parties ripple throughout our entire community because the virus can quickly and easily spread. We must all do our part to slow the spread of this virus so that we may continue on our recovery journey.”
Dec. 31, 2020 - 12:56 p.m. — At yesterday’s briefing, Mayor Eric Garcetti touched on superspreader events, noting that the Los Angeles Police Department would continue to bust large parties and gatherings. He also reminded Angelenos that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently shut off service to a “chronic party house” in the Hollywood Hills. The LAPD will have a “significant deployment” on New Year’s Eve to shut down parties, he said.
Garcetti said county and city officials were aware of Feucht’s planned concerts, which he called “a bad idea.”
“There are constitutionally protected rights for both religion and protests, which clearly he has used and exercised,” he said. “But just because we do have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. I would encourage him, first and foremost, [to] come back and have a good concert after this pandemic is done. Because we do not want to see this spread. The more spread there is, the more hospitalizations, the more hospitalizations, the more deaths. So if you care about human lives and what God has given each one of us, which is this power of life, please don’t do this.”
As far as enforcement, Garcetti said the Department of Public Health and city ambassadors will be in attendance to enforce health directives. The LAPD will also be present to respond to any potential fights and to “aggressively encourage” people to wear masks.