Donald Trump has threatened to “override” governors who have limited church gatherings. He can’t do that legally and he shouldn’t try. Furthermore, governors should resist the calls of some church leaders to remove restrictions. Going to church is not like shopping or even eating out. With this post, I want to list situations where churches have met together and spread the virus.
Some are widely known. In South Korea, much of the spread was due to a new religious movement where a single infected person spread the virus to many people in church. Several days ago, I wrote about the differences between church going and shopping and concluded that many things we do in church make it easy for the virus to spread.
The CDC reported this past week that an Arkansas church was involved in the spread of COVID-19 in March. Here is the CDC description:
Among 92 attendees at a rural Arkansas church during March 6–11, 35 (38%) developed laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and three persons died. Highest attack rates were in persons aged 19–64 years (59%) and ≥65 years (50%). An additional 26 cases linked to the church occurred in the community, including one death.
The Christian Post also reported on this church.
Cases of COVID-19 have been related to Mother’s Day services in two CA churches. In one church, nine cases are tied to the church service and in the other, two cases are known to relate to attendance at the church.
In April, a Russian language evangelical church near Sacramento was the center of an outbreak. Seventy cases of COVID-19 were traced back to the church. Small group gatherings may have contributed to the spread of the virus.
Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle opened their church to in person services in April only to close again in early May after just two weeks of services due to reported infections among congregants. The infections occurred despite significant social distancing precautions and low attendance at the services.
In Cartersville, GA as many as 15 cases of COVID-19 were connected to an infected person who attended the Church at Liberty Square in early March. The church then moved to online services.
Today, according to WLOS, Macon County Public Health reported seven members of Evangelical Ebenezer Church in Franklin, NC have tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials have identified this as a “cluster” of cases and identified the source as the church.
A Catholic church closed services after several members came down with COVID-19. The transmission is unclear but 5 members of an order associated with the church tested positive.
A minister who defied mitigation efforts died from the virus. Gerald Glenn of Chesterfield VA vowed to continue preaching but succumbed to the virus back in April.
The first COVID-19 death in WV was a member of a Baptist church in Everettville. Due to lack of resources and tracing, it is unclear how many people became infected, but at least five did after attending a service of between 90 and 120 people back in March.
More than forty people tested positive (this report says 100 cases) after attending a Baptist church service in Frankfurt, Germany. According to news reports, the church adhered to social distancing guidelines.
There are many reasons why a church service is a good environment for spreading the virus (see this post for a discussion). Despite social distancing, some church gatherings have been responsible for the spread of the virus. During the Spanish Flu pandemic churches closed down until it was safe to meet again. We should be patient and follow their example.
I urge readers to leave other cases of church spread in the comments and I will add more as I find them.