December 21, 2020 --
A holiday musical event at a North Carolina church has resulted in 75 people testing positive for the coronavirus.
The Dec. 5 event the First Baptist Church in Hendersonville was crowded, and many people didn’t wear facial coverings, including choir members who sang shoulder to shoulder, people who attended told the Asheville Citizen-Times.
“To date, the Health Department has identified 75 individuals who have tested positive as a result of the event. The Health Department is working to identify any additional close contacts of these individuals,” the Henderson County Health Department said in a news release.
The agency didn’t say how many people who tested positive actually attended the event.
The church had been holding Sunday services in the sanctuary throughout the pandemic. Once the size of the outbreak became evident, the church initially posted on its Facebook page that it would go on “a 30-day pause in regard to on-site worship” and all other ministry activities inside the building. That notice has since been removed from public viewing.
“The current wave of virus infection is so widespread that we must take action out of concern for the safety of our church, our community, and especially those who are most vulnerable in our midst. We will look at conditions in mid-January to see how and when we should move forward,” Senior Pastor Steve Scoggins said on Facebook.
While the sanctuary is off-limits, Sunday services will be streamed as usual. The church is also going to a drive-thru communion on Christmas Eve. Church leadership meetings will be held virtually.
The Henderson County Health Department says the area “continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases generated from social gatherings such as parties, family and neighborhood get-togethers.”
North Carolina has a statewide face mask mandate for most indoor gatherings, but religious worship services are exempted.
Henderson County has reported 4,188 total COVID cases and 91 deaths, according to the North Carolina COVID Dashboard.
Other super spreader events have been held at state churches. In October, mass gatherings at the United House of Prayer for All People on Beatties Ford Road in Charlotte, resulted in at least eight deaths and 187 positive cases, The Charlotte Observer reported.