Tampa Bay Church Returns to Online-Only Services After Six Staff Members Test Positive for Coronavirus

Calvary Baptist Church pastor Willy Rice speaks during a video posted to the church’s Facebook page announcing its services would go back to online-only after staff tested positive for COVID-19. [Facebook]

A large church in Pinellas County decided Thursday to return to online-only services after six church staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Two of the staff members are in the hospital.

Calvary Baptist Church pastor Willy Rice announced in a Facebook video Thursday that services would take place online for the month of July. The church had gone back to in-person services June 4 after doing online-only services for two months, according to Calvary’s Facebook page. While cases of the coronavirus continue to surge in Florida, most other churches in the Tampa Bay area are continuing to conduct services in person.

“We felt like once there were positive cases among our staff that the right thing to do for our church and our community is to step back and do online only,” Rice said in an interview. “We just need a rest stop because we need to make sure it doesn’t go any further and our community as well as our church family can get beyond these spiking numbers.”

Rice said two staff members were in the hospital after contracting the virus. He said he hasn’t been tested for the virus but hasn’t shown any symptoms. Rice said he was aware of other cases among congregants and students at Calvary Christian High School, but he didn’t have specific numbers.

Calvary, Clearwater’s oldest church, has 6,000 to 7,000 active members across its three campuses, Rice said. He said he didn’t think anything the church did led to positive cases among the staff and congregation.

“We were very, very careful,” Rice said.

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SOURCE: Tampa Bay Times, Peter Talbot