UPDATED: New COVID-19 outbreaks tied to two Garfield County churches
Congregations saw spread among members before mask rule went into effect
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original version published Friday, July 31 to include the names of the church organizations where the outbreaks were reported, which were provided on Monday.
Two faith-based groups in Garfield County have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19 among worshippers, Garfield County Public Health officials said in a Friday afternoon press release.
The religious congregations where the outbreaks occurred were later identified as the Iglesias de Dios Pentecostal in Parachute, and Pan de Vida in Rifle.
As of Monday, the outbreaks were not yet listed on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s list of recent outbreaks. According to the groups’ respective Facebook pages, Iglesias de Dios Pentecostal meets at a location on Green Street in Parachute, and Pan de Vida, also a Pentecostal congregation, which meets at a location on Railroad Avenue in Rifle.
County health officials urge vigilance for anyone gathering in groups to abide by social distancing guidelines and to wear masks in public places, as now mandated across Colorado.
The reports of church-based outbreaks comes as Garfield County is working to correct an upward trend in new COVID-19 cases since early June, which could have a negative impact on businesses being allowed to remain open.
“One house of worship is home to 14 church attendees who are lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive, and has another six probable cases with compatible symptoms,” according to a county press release issued Friday afternoon.
Those numbers are likely to change, county officials said, adding that most of the spread occurred before the state’s mandatory mask ordinance went into effect July 17.
“Investigation reveals people weren’t wearing masks and practicing social distancing,” the county’s release stated.
In one instance, an infected person reported first being sick July 2, but they weren’t tested until July 21. Isolating oneself and seeking testing within the first couple of days of exhibiting symptoms is crucial to containing the virus spread, health officials maintain.
“A separate church has been identified as having similar spread among congregation members,” according to the release.
Contact tracing investigations are underway in an effort to stop further potential spread of the virus, county officials said.
In addition to abiding by mask orders, churches that are meeting in person are advised not to include singing or choirs in their services.
“The sheer velocity at which spittle or droplets leave the mouth while singing can cast it further than six feet, creating a higher risk of spread within a house of worship,” according to the county’s press release.
CDPHE lists large gatherings and group singing in its highest risk category, along with going to the gym, bars and nightclubs.
“It is vitally important that if you are ill, you remain at home, isolate from your family members and do not go to work,” county health officials reiterated in the release. “Wearing masks and practicing social distancing are also crucial to stopping the spread of the virus.”
Anyone who is sick with the common symptoms associated with COVID-19 — fever, sore throat, dry cough, difficulty breathing — or is around someone who is sick is advised to follow public health instructions on self-isolation and self-quarantine.
“People eat, play, work and live with one another,” the county press release advises. “Whatever you do, remember that if you’re ill and going out in public or to work and ignoring social distancing guidelines, you are bringing this virus back to your home and community.”
Contrary to some claims, asymptomic carriers of COVID-19 also can spread the virus, according to public health officials.
CDPHE notes that the safest option for worshiping is to attend online services.
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