More coronavirus infections have been tied to two Mother’s Day church services in Mendocino and Butte counties, officials announced this week.
That disclosure comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to provide plans for reopening California churches amid mounting pressure to allow in-person religious services both from protesters and President Trump, who is demanding that governors take action immediately.
Nine cases of COVID-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus, are now linked to the May 10 service held by the Assembly of God in the Mendocino County city of Redwood Valley. The service was livestreamed to congregants and included singing, county public health officials said Friday.
Mendocino County health orders permit churches to produce events that are livestreamed or recorded, provided certain precautions are taken. They include specific measures to mitigate the risk associated with singing, which experts believe can spew viral particles into the air.
Officials announced last week that three people had become infected after physically attending the service, with two of them participating. One person was hospitalized.
That person’s spouse then disclosed the couple’s affiliation with the church on Facebook. Because of the social media share, officials were allowed to release the church’s name to the public and advise congregants to obtain testing, Dr. Noemi Doohan, Mendocino County public health officer, said Friday at a news conference.
On Tuesday, the county launched a large-scale drive-through testing site in Redwood Valley for the purpose. Officials learned Friday morning that six more people had tested positive, all of them connected to the Assembly of God church, Doohan said.
“When we have an outbreak of such a large magnitude, it’s very concerning because we know that these individuals have had other contacts since contracting the disease,” she said.
Public health officials were working to identify and reach out to the infected people’s contacts and arrange for them to obtain free testing, Doohan said.
The new infections brought the number of coronavirus cases in Mendocino County from 15 to 21. Two people were hospitalized.
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SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, Alex Wigglesworth