Charlotte church ordered to cease gatherings following large COVID-19 outbreak

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina health officials issued an order that bars a Charlotte church from holding in-person gatherings for the next two weeks after a massive COVID-19 outbreak that lead to the deaths of at least three people.

Mecklenburg County leaders said they tied at least 121 cases across three counties to the event at the United House of Prayer for All People -- 118 cases in Mecklenburg County, two cases in Iredell County and one in Cabarrus County, ABC-affiliate WSOC reports. Of those cases, three people have died and a fourth is under investigation.

Of the 121 cases, officials said at least seven people have been hospitalized and several of them are on ventilators.

Health officials deemed this as the largest outbreak tied to any event in Mecklenburg County since the pandemic began. Due to the outbreak, on Saturday, the Mecklenburg County Health Department (MCHD) issued an "Abatement of Imminent Hazard Order" to the church.

The MCHD said the order is being used as a tool to "further prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus."

RELATED: Religious gatherings among factors for recent spike in total COVID-19 clusters statewide
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There have been 76 total reported clusters at religious gatherings, resulting in 1,040 cases and 13 deaths; this category sitting right behind college and universities and meat and poultry processing plants, according to the latest state data.



"We have taken this action out of an abundance of caution to prevent the COVID-19 virus from further spreading in our community," Public Health Director Gibbie Harris wrote in a statement. "This type of order is rare, but sometimes necessary."

According to the order, all the church facilities in Mecklenburg County will be closed immediately to in-person gatherings and will not hold any gatherings of 10 or more people.

If church officials are not to comply with the order, the county can take them to court.

During a Wednesday Coronavirus Task Force Press Conference, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen discussed the uptick in COVID-19 clusters calling attention to religious gatherings.

"We've also seen an increase in cases for clusters in religious gatherings," Cohen said.

The NCDHHS said the best way to combat the virus in a church environment or any other social setting is by practicing the 3 W's: Wash, Wear, and Wait.

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