CALIFORNIA (KCRA/NBC News) — Dozens of COVID-19 cases have been traced back to a California church.
Health officials say they are working to convince church leaders to follow social distancing guidelines.
The cases stem from the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church in Rancho Cordova.
“Although they too have not had services for a couple of weeks, they are apparently meeting in people’s homes and having gatherings,” says Sacramento County Public Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson.
On Wednesday, Sacramento County health officials said roughly a third of the area’s 314 COVID-19 cases stemmed from church-goers gathering in small groups for activities such as Bible study or fellowship.
According to a March 29 sermon posted online, the senior pastor at Bethany Slavic Missionary Church was hospitalized with the virus, and two other pastors were also sick. In the video, an unidentified pastor added, “Today, humanity goes through major distress… and this also affects our church. Many in our church are going through this sickness.”
A statement in Russian on the church’s website asks parishioners to stay at home and watch scheduled services online.
County public health maintains they are trying to communicate with the church to follow public health orders.
“Congregations of people, even 10 or 12 people in a house, can be a way of rapidly spreading the disease,” Beilenson said.
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