Two people infected at least 35 members of a rural Arkansas church with the coronavirus in March, sparking an outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.
The report showcases how quickly COVID-19 can spread in faith-based communities and may have implications as places of worship eye reopening amid the pandemic.
The CDC began it’s investigation on March 16 into a cluster of cases in rural Arkansas, tracing them back to an unnamed church.
According to the report, two people with symptoms of the virus attended children’s events at the church from March 6 to 8.
Neither of those two people, who later tested positive, reported traveling outside of the area, and had no known contact with other confirmed cases.
On March 10, the pastor’s wife developed a fever and a cough, and he later began to experience symptoms. But on March 11, he attended a bible study group, unwittingly exposing dozens to the virus.
Of the 92 people who attended one of the church gatherings from March 6 to March 11, 38 percent tested positive, including the pastor and his wife.
Three people died.
Two children also tested positive, but were not severely ill.
The couple closed the church after learning of the infections in their congregation, the report said.
But it was too late. An additional 26 people in the community tested positive due to contact with people infected in the church. Of those, one of them was hospitalized and died
It’s possible others were infected as well but never got tested.
“This outbreak highlights the potential for widespread transmission of [the coronavirus] both at group gatherings during church events and within the broader community,” the researchers wrote in the report.
“These findings underscore the opportunity for faith-based organizations to prevent COVID-19 by following local authorities’ guidance,” and federal guidelines, the researchers added.
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