An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling on faith-based organizations to work with health officials on modifying activities following a COVID-19 outbreak at a church which killed three and infected 28% of attendees.
Published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the investigation centers around an Arkansas church where the pastor and his wife tested positive with COVID-19. According to the report, the couple attended church-related events from March 6 through March 8, developing symptoms of illness just a few days following the events.
In total, 92 people attended the church events leading to 35 people later being confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. Three of the attendees at these events died. The investigation states those who tested positive ranged from under 18 years of age to over 65 with the majority being between 19 to 64-years-old.
In addition, another 26 people were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 among members in the community who had contact with those who attended church events. Following reports members of the church were experiencing symptoms, the pastor closed the church indefinitely. The pastor then sought out a test and was notified he and his wife were positive. It is believed the pastor and his wife were initially infected during church events then may have exposed others during a Bible study.
The events in which the infections occurred took place indoors, ranging from 1 hour to 1.5-hour sessions along with normal church services. Food was also served during one of the dates studied in a buffet-style.
The CDC says high transmission rates of the virus have been reported from hospitals, long-term facilities, family gatherings, at a choir practice and now church events. The agency is advising faith-based establishments planning to resume in-person operations to be "aware of the potential for high rates of transmission of SARS-CoV-2. These organizations should work with local health officials to determine how to implement the U.S. Government’s guidelines for modifying activities during the COVID-19 pandemic."