Church shares experience of taking COVID-19 precautions and still having outbreak

How are churches responding to COVID-19?

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -As Mississippians are starting to go back to some of their usual activities, many are going back to in-person worship. And one church is sharing their experience with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Pastor Jay Richardson has been out of the hospital for about a month now following a five day stay.

“Not only did I have COVID, our worship pastor had COVID, our executive pastor’s wife had it so he had to be quarantined," explained Jay Henderson, Highland Colony Baptist Senior Pastor. "And so we didn’t have enough people to actually lead a service.”

Highland Colony Baptist Church in Ridgeland moved services online for two months at the start of the pandemic. When they returned to in-person worship in May, they added a second worship service and spaced out chairs in the sanctuary. All in an attempt to limit the risks.

“We had done so well, for so long,” said Richardson.

14 weeks with no issues and that changed in late August.

“It spread very, very quickly,” Richardson explained. "We probably had as many as 25 people in our church. Almost all of those were connected in one way or another to our music ministry. Or to they ran a live group, which is like Sunday school with somebody who’s in the music ministry. "

They’ve since made a few more adjustments. More spacing in the choir loft. The band moved off the stage to allow for more spacing. And the small groups aren’t meeting for now. Even still, Richardson feels like the outbreak happened despite their best efforts.

“Oh, yeah, it can it can happen," Henderson noted. "Anybody. I mean, it slips in through the smallest crack. So I think it’s naïve to think it can’t happen to you to think that even if you’re doing everything that you’re supposed to do.”

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs noting there are scenarios that do increase the risk of transmission at churches.

“That’s really a prime place to spread it," said Dobbs Monday. "Folks are happy to see one another, expressing their emotions in fellowship and singing. Singing is a bad way to spread it.”

We don’t have the specifics but the Health Department referenced this week in a couple of different interviews that they have had more outbreaks in churches.

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