Two churches in Georgia and Texas that reopened recently amid the novel coronavirus pandemic have since closed their doors again after churchgoers and religious leaders tested positive for the virus, according to multiple media reports.
A representative for the Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold, Ga., told The Christian Post in a statement on Monday that the church decided earlier this month to no longer offer “in-person worship services for the foreseeable future” after confirming some of its families were “dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 virus.”
The church said it had initially resumed in-person services weeks back as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp began to ease coronavirus restrictions on nonessential businesses in April. At the time, the church said it had also made sure to adhere to social distancing guidelines advised to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Seating was marked to only permit sitting within the six foot guidelines, all doors were open to allow access without the touching of doors, and attendees were asked to enter in a social distancing manner and were dismissed in a formal manner as well to ensure that the social distancing measures were adhered by all,” the church told the outlet.
However, the church said it ultimately decided to discontinue all in-person services last week “until further notice in an effort of extreme caution for the safety and well-being of our families.”
Days after the move by the church in Georgia, ABC News reported that Houston-based Holy Ghost Parish also did the same after it was discovered multiple members of the organization had contracted the novel coronavirus and one leader had died.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said the church, which had also reportedly begun hosting mass at the start of May as some coronavirus restrictions on certain businesses in Texas had begun to ease, decided to reclose last week after the death of Father Donnell Kirchner, 79.
Though the cause of his death is currently unknown, the archdiocese said the priest had been diagnosed with pneumonia before his death and that he received hospital care before eventually being “sent home with medication.”
After his death, the archdiocese said five of the seven members of Kirchner’s religious order, with whom he shared a residence, “sought medical advice, and all were tested for the coronavirus.”
“Although the parish had followed cleaning, sanitation and social distancing guidelines prescribed by State health officials since reopening on May 2nd, they determined at that time it was best to close the Church immediately to public Masses until the results of their tests were known,” the archdiocese said.
“This past weekend, five of the seven members of the Redemptorists religious community learned that they had tested positive for COVID-19, including two priests who had been active in celebrating public Masses at Holy Ghost since May 2nd,” the religious organization added. “As a result of these findings, all Masses at Holy Ghost Church remain cancelled until further notice.”
The archdiocese, which serves more than 1 million Catholics across 10 counties in Texas, said it has been in communication with the Houston Health Department and has urged members who attended in-person masses at the Holy Ghost Church since it reopened earlier this month to seek testing.
“While the Redemptorists currently residing at Holy Ghost are asymptomatic, they, and the other members of the community, are in quarantine in the residence isolated from the others,” the group added.