Clays Mill Baptist Church in Jessamine County, Kentucky, has temporarily halted in-person worship services after at least 18 members recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
But pastor Jeff Fugate, who stood alongside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron in April and called for Gov. Andy Beshear to lift restrictions on in-person worship, stressed there is “no indication” anyone contracted the virus while at church.
“I decided it would just be best to go back to online services until we can figure out exactly what’s going on and we can figure out what to do,” Fugate told The Courier Journal on Saturday. “… The last thing I want is for my folks to get sick.”
But Randy Gooch, executive director of the Jessamine County Health Department, said evidence suggests the cases are linked to attendance at the church.
“Our disease investigation is indicative of these cases tracing back to their contact with other cases at Clays Mill Baptist,” Gooch said. “Our initial case was confirmed symptomatic when they attended church, so this gives us good reason to believe they are connected.”
Gooch said 10 of the cases are residents in Jessamine County, while eight are from Fayette County.
Clays Mill Baptist Church, on Brannon Road in Nicholasville, just south of the Lexington city limits, held in-person services on May 17 and May 24, Fugate said.
That came after a federal judge had ruled in favor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, also in Nicholasville, in its lawsuit that sought to block enforcement of Beshear’s order barring in-person worship amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The May 8 ruling from U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove allowed churches around the commonwealth to resume in-person gatherings slightly ahead of schedule. Beshear had said he would lift the church gathering ban on May 20.
Fugate said he also gathered staff and some families at Clays Mill Baptist Church on May 10 not for worship but to explain the various social distancing measures and safety guidelines that would be in place as in-person services restarted.
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SOURCE: Louisville Courier Journal, Billy Kobin