Coronavirus: Person at California church service possibly exposes over 180 to COVID-19, health officials say

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Monday, May 18, 2020
Person at California church service exposes 180 to COVID-19
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Contract tracing and an investigation are underway after a person who tested positive for COVID-19 attended an in-person religious service held on Mother's Day in Butte County. Officials say at least 180 people were potentially exposed.

PALERMO, Calif. -- A person who attended a Mother's Day church service in Butte County tested positive for the novel coronavirus, possibly exposing it to the rest of the congregation, officials say.

RELATED: Some East Bay churches threaten to reopen despite Gov. Newsom's stay-at-home order

In a statement released last Friday, Butte County Public Health Department said an investigation and contact tracing is underway after a person who attended tested positive for COVID-19 the day after.

Officials say over 180 people were in attendance and they have been ordered to self-quarantine.

"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," stated Danette York, Director of Butte County Public Health. "We all need to do our part to follow the orders and mitigation efforts so that our Reopen Butte County plan can continue to move forward. Moving too quickly through the reopening process can cause a major setback and could require us to revert back to more restrictive measures. We implore everyone to follow the State order and our reopening plan to help combat the potential spread of COVID-19."

The pastor of the Palermo Bible Family Church in the town of Palermo admitted to hosting the service, despite the county's stay-at-home order which began on March 19.

Butte County is one of the 24 counties now approved by the state to reopen dine-in restaurants, shopping malls and office buildings as part of California's Phase 2 of reopening the economy. This stage still does not allow for gatherings.

RELATED: Coronavirus Stage 2 reopening: 24 counties in California given green light to reopen schools, restaurants and malls

As of Monday, Butte County has had 24 confirmed cases and no deaths.

Officials say, "Despite the Governor's order, the organization chose to open its doors, which resulted in exposing the entire congregation to COVID-19. 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. Such decisions can place great risk on the County's ability to continue opening at a faster rate than the State. If the Governor's order is not followed, these types of decisions may jeopardize BCPH's ability to respond adequately to prevent the spread of COVID-19."