From Yahoo news:
Less than a month after President Trump urged churches to reopen, West Virginia has reported a significant number of coronavirus outbreaks linked to houses of worship. According to the state’s public health office, a total of five churches have seen outbreaks.
Those churches are scattered across the rugged, mountainous state. The affected churches are in Jefferson County on the border with Maryland; Boone County, in the state’s southwestern coalfields, not far from the Kentucky border; Hampshire County, also near the Maryland border; and Marshall County, in a narrow swath of the state squeezed between Ohio and Pennsylvania known as the Northern Panhandle.
The state’s Department of Health and Human Resources announced the five-church outbreak in a Saturday press release about a house of worship in Greenbrier County, where it said “at least 17 cases have been identified.” It did not name the Greenbrier church, or the churches in the other four counties, to “protect the possibility of identifying individuals.”
On Monday, health officials said that there had been eight church-related cases in Hampshire County, seven in Boone County and five each in Jefferson and Marshall counties. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice revealed that the outbreak in Greenbrier County was at Graystone Baptist Church in Lewisburg. And he said that the number of cases there had risen to 28.
State health officials told Yahoo News that the infected churchgoers had themselves infected an additional 26 people, so that the total number of people who had contracted the coronavirus either directly or indirectly because of the worship services was now 79. “DHHR is monitoring any increase in COVID-19 cases with coordination from the local health department,” said Allison Adler, director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Resources. She said that the West Virginia National Guard was assisting in the response, including by helping clean the five churches.
Describing the coronavirus as a “cannonball killer,” Justice suggested that officials at the church did not take sufficient measures to protect parishioners.
“Maybe we didn’t use the level of caution there,” Justice said. “Maybe we didn’t social distance properly, or properly wear masks.” He later clarified that this was only “hearsay.”
Read the rest.
One of the houses of worship involved, the Graystone Baptist Church, posted this statement on Facebook:
Our hearts are heavy during this time. The outbreak of Covid-19 has caused many rumors and misunderstandings to be said. We adhered to the state and local governments concerning the reconvening of our church. We greatly encouraged anyone who was feeling ill to remain home. Attending church was on a voluntary basis. We greatly encouraged those to wear masks and gloves if they felt more comfortable. Our church ushers were helping with proper seating arrangements as given to us by Governor Jim Justice. Our services did not include any time of fellowship. We had gloves and masks available for everyone to use if they so desired. We exemplified social distancing within the church walls. We made aware and made use of hand sanitizing stations and Antibacterial sprays. We do not understand the source of the outbreak. To the best of our ability we followed the guidelines that were given to us.
We want everyone to understand our church respects, obeys, and prays for our government. We love our brothers and sisters and would in no way put anyone in harm intentionally. We want to thank our governor, Jim Justice, and the Department of Health for their help in all this with the decontamination of our facility.
If anyone has any questions please leave us message and will be happy to connect with you.
Meanwhile, there’s also this report just out from Oregon:
The Oregon Health Authority has reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day to date.
An outbreak in Union County was a big contributor to that. According to OHA, 99 people have tested positive so far and the number is expected to rise.
OHA attributes a bunch of those positive cases to the Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church in La Grande.
FOX 12 spoke with a church member there, who wants to remain anonymous, but said she’s heartbroken over the outbreak.
“Right now, I’m feeling pretty upset, pretty sad because they’re good people,” she said. “There’s a lot of good people in there.”
She said the virus has hit everyone from pastors to church members.
“It’s hard to say where it came in from,” she said. “I have no clue.”
The member claims after President Trump deemed churches and other houses of worship essential late last month, the Lighthouse opened back up. But she said they had guidelines for what she had to guess is at least 300 members that attend.
“They had a handwashing station outside the door before you came in,” she told FOX 12. “People wore mask, or they should’ve.”
Worth noting: a recent survey of health experts in Michigan concluded that church attendance could potentially be one of the riskiest activities for spreading the coronavirus:
An analysis by MLive chose 36 American activities and asked four public health experts in Michigan to evaluate the risk of coronavirus exposure for each one. The doctors factored in whether the activity is inside or outside, proximity to others, length of potential exposure, likelihood of compliance, and personal risk level.
The experts gave a score to each activity, with 1 being the least risky and 10 being the riskiest, and MLive averaged their scores to come up with a ranking.
Going to church ranked at level 8, because of how people usually sit close together.