KEY POINTS

  • Churchgoer attends crowded church service in California
  • Tests positive  for COVID-19 the day after
  • 180 people potentially exposed
  • BCPH tracing exposed individuals

A COVID-19 positive California churchgoer attending a crowded service exposed 180 other attendees to the coronavirus on May 10.

Health officials reported that the person attended the in-church service in Butte County, California, which was crowded for Mother’s Day, was tested positive for coronavirus the day after.

According to CBS News, the Butte County Public Health (BCPH) started an investigation and contact tracing.

In the same report, public health officials released a statement saying that the people who had attended the service were notified of their exposure and were advised to undergo self-quarantine.

The authorities also added that they are working with health care partners to test those who went to the service if they have COVID-19.

The infected individual reportedly put himself under isolation but he had already exposed 180 churchgoers to the virus.

Despite California governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order which took effect on March 19 and officially banned any gatherings of any size, “the church still opened its doors, putting members of the congregation at risk”.

"This decision comes at a cost of many hours and a financial burden to respond effectively to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19," the BCPH statement read.

The statement also continued on to say that such incidents could slow down the country’s progress during the pandemic and its ability to reopen businesses.

"At this time, organizations that hold in-person services or gatherings are putting the health and safety of their congregations, the general public and our local ability to open up at great risk," BCPH Director Danette York said in the statement.

The health department withheld any information on the church involved, including the name but the church’s pastor had already shared his thoughts on the issue, Chico/Redding CBS affiliate KHSL-TV reported.

"An individual tested positive for it," Pastor Mike Jacobsen said. "They didn't feel sick in any way."

Butte County is located in the north-central part of the state of California with a plan to open gradually in stages. The stage 2 reopening plan does not allow gatherings, which may be considered in stage 3, the statement said.

Some churches have filled the pews with pictures of worshippers as people are forced to stay away from prayers together Some churches have filled the pews with pictures of worshippers as people are forced to stay away from prayers together Photo: AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI