• Oklahoma's Victory Church canceled plans for a Sunday 'Friendsgiving' after backlash
  • While the church opted to simply hand out meals this time, it will continue to host services without mask or distancing requirements
  • Oklahoma is routinely setting new 7-day records for average cases and has begun to allow COVID-19 positive nurses to continue working in a bid to give relief to weary medical workers

A mega-church in Oklahoma has canceled plans for a large, indoor ‘Friendsgiving’ event after online backlash as the state once again set new records for infections. The church will continue to hold services, and video of maskless crowds prompted residents to ask why religious organizations are exempt from the regulations placed on businesses.

Victory Church had planned to invite people in on Sunday despite at least 3,600 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, but users online lambasted it for not taking the pandemic seriously. Users noted the original Facebook event told people to bring a neighbor and that church services took place largely unmasked.

The church reversed course, taking down the Facebook post and announcing that the event would be canceled in favor of simply handing out pre-packaged meals to those in need.

"We did not have the Friendsgiving event today that we do every year. This year we changed it up and gave away boxed meals with turkeys, hams, and dry goods for those in need to take home and prepare for their families," Victory’s director of operations Daniel Henshaw told NBC.

The church does not seem to be taking significant steps to prevent COVID-19’s lethal spread. In a statement, it clarified that services would continue with signage encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing with extra disinfecting of the church’s facilities. The sanctuary would operate at 50% capacity.

That decision didn’t endear them to the community, with people posting videos of crowded, maskless services and concerts.

Some wondered why businesses faced limitations but churches were exempt from COVID-19 mandates. “The blame has been solely put on bars and restaurants,” one critic wrote on Reddit. “Making them close at 11 p.m. and drastically affecting the people in that industry but [expletive] like this is ok?”

Oklahoma is among the many states throughout the South and Midwest dealing with a resurgent virus.

Oklahoma student with coronavirus goes to school
Oklahoma student with coronavirus goes to school Christo Anestev - Pixabay

On Friday its department of health announced they would be following the lead of other struggling states and allowing COVID-19-positive nurses to continue working, a move in line with the CDC’s crisis recommendations.

Shelly Wells, with the Oklahoma Nurses Association, shared concerns with News9 that the change sacrifices sustainability for temporarily relieving exhausted medical personnel.

“We know that asymptomatic staff all use the same doors, the same ventilation systems, the same restrooms,” she said.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to reach new heights in Oklahoma. The state set a record on Nov. 7 with a freak spike of 4,500 new cases but has been edging back toward that mark in recent days with much greater consistency.

More concerning is the average number of cases, which has climbed precipitously over the past week. The New York Times’ data shows 3,600 new cases on Friday, with a 7-day average of 3,000 cases. The day Oklahoma set its record, the 7-day average was only 1,900 cases.