CDC links Ark. COVID-19 outbreak to church gathering

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Saying large gatherings pose a risk for COVID-19 transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked Arkansas’s outbreak to a church gathering that left dozens of people sick and four others dead.

Of the 92 people who attended the March 6-11 services, according to a CDC report released Tuesday, 35 became infected with COVID-19; three patients died. Dozens more in the community were infected, including one who succumbed to the virus.

The pastor and his wife were the first two cases reported in the county of approximately 25,000 people.

“The couple attended church-related events during March 6-8, and developed nonspecific respiratory symptoms and fever on March 10 (wife) and 11 (husband),” the CDC stated.

The virus then spread to 33 other people who attended events at the church. Of those, three died.

During contact tracing the CDC found at least 26 additional confirmed cases among community members who reported contact with church attendees and likely were infected by them. One of those additional persons was hospitalized and subsequently died.

The CDC did not identify the church in its case study; however, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in late March that three dozen members of Greers Ferry First Assembly of God in Cleburne County who had attended a three-day “Kids Crusade” had tested positive for COVID-19, including the pastor and his wife.

The CDC concluded its report by saying that “faith-based organizations operating or planning to resume in-person operations, including regular services, funerals, or other events, should be aware of the potential for high rates of transmission” of COVID-19.

It advises organizations to work with local health officials to implement the federal government’s guidelines to prevent transmission of the virus.

To read the full report, click here.

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