Recently, we have seen an increase in COVID-19 exposures occurring from church services and are calling on all faith based organizations to help prevent further spread in our communities.
“We acknowledge the important role faith and worship has in our daily lives, and COVID-19 has certainly challenged us to find ways to maintain connections with our community throughout this pandemic. We are sharing this alert because we are concerned with the increase in COVID-19 cases that have been linked back to church services or events and the risks this poses to each faith organization and the community as a whole. We appreciate and value the partnerships with our faith community and acknowledge this is not the only COVID-19 risk we are seeing currently, but is one that has had enough activity in the past week to draw attention to this as a serious matter. This pandemic has made it more apparent than ever that each person’s health is affected by the community as a whole and in order to slow the spread of this virus, it will take all of us. We urge those who are attending worship services to please practice your 3 Ws by wearing a face covering, distancing from others outside your immediate family, practice good hand washing, and stay home if you are sick to help protect others in our community. Let’s join together to support the Show Your Love campaign by protecting our loved ones and neighbors who may be at higher risk in every setting, including worship services,” said AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene.
Faith organizations can help protect those in attendance at services by asking everyone to wear a face covering, practice social distancing, and wash their hands frequently. When individuals are gathered in large numbers and are not taking the appropriate precautions to prevent spread, there is an increased risk of exposure. This virus spreads most commonly through respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes and is in close contact with another person. Close contact is defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as 6 feet of distance or less for 15 minutes or longer. This exposure can include a cumulative exposure of 15 minutes and can occur before individuals experience symptoms.
When we learn of a potential exposure in a church setting, we want to work closely with the organization to offer public health guidance and recommendations to prevent further spread. We conduct a case investigation to determine close contact and potential exposures in order to notify those individuals to quarantine, monitor their symptoms and seek testing.
The North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services has released guidance for places of worship and religious services. The guidance can be found here.