Another large church gathering has resulted in dozens of COVID-19 transmissions. At least 40 congregants from a church in Alabama have been infected after a week-long church event. With church members suffering symptoms ranging from nonexistent to severe, the church’s pastor is saying that the infections were worth it to be able to hold the event.
A Week-Long Church Event
The Warrior Creek Baptist Church in Strawberry, Alabama began holding a revival last week on Monday, July 20. A baptist tradition, revivals are week-long events where churches bring in guest evangelists to speak to the congregation. The main goal is to encourage guests who have not been baptized to profess their faith and join the church.
Warrior Creek Pastor Daryl Ross told AL.com that, while many congregants skipped the event due to COVID-19, many still gathered for the revival, which had relaxed social distancing requirements.
“We let everybody do what they felt like,” Ross said. “We social distanced. Most of them sat with their own family. If you were comfortable shaking hands, you shook hands. If you didn’t, you didn’t.” Masks were reportedly not required at the event.
The observances came to a halt, however, when a congregant who had been attending the revival tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
“On the way back over Thursday is when we found out,” said Ross. “I got a call that one of our guys in the church has tested positive. So we shut down revival and, by Friday night, I’ve got church members sick everywhere.”
The man who tested positive was reportedly asymptomatic at the time he attended the revival. According to Ross, he was tested at his workplace after three of his coworkers were found to have the virus. The pastor says the man still hasn’t exhibited any symptoms of the disease.
“I ate lunch with him,” said Ross. “No nothing. Not a sniffle. Not a headache. Nothing.”
Despite the man’s mild symptoms, the virus has spread wide through the congregation. AL.com reports that more than 40 people who attended the event have since tested positive.
“The whole church has got it, just about,” Ross said, noting that two male congregants had especially serious cases. “One respiratory, he almost got put in the hospital, but he’s OK,” said Ross. “The other one fought it off with two days in bed.”
Ross said he himself has tested positive for the virus, though his symptoms have been milder than those of many congregants.
“I can’t smell or taste, a little sinus, that’s all I’ve had,” he said. “The whole church has been running fever and headaches and terrible respiratory (issues), and I’ve been building fences and bush-hogging.”
Despite the high number of infections resulting from the revival event, Pastor Ross says he has few regrets.
“We knew what we were getting into,” the pastor said. “We knew the possibilities. But my goodness, man, for three days we had one of the old-time revivals. It was unbelievable. And everybody you ask, if you talk to our church members right now, they’d tell you we’d do it again. It was that good.”
This latest outbreak related to a church event follows an incident earlier this month where several teens tested positive for the virus after attending two separate church camps in Texas. Prior to that, a teen in Florida reportedly died after attending church and being treated with hydroxychloroquine.
According to Newsweek, some 40 churches nationwide reported outbreaks leading up to early July. These outbreaks are estimated to have led to the infection of at least 650 people, said a New York Times database.