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Religious leader says local pastor will be 'reprimanded' after service that likely spread COVID-19

At least two women say a Knightdale pastor went ahead with a church conference knowing that some of his members had COVID-19. One of those women says she tested positive for the virus days later, and she's convinced she became infected at the church.

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Bryan Mims
, WRAL reporter
KNIGHTDALE, N.C. — A Durham-based bishop said he did not approve of a Knightdale pastor who went ahead with a church revival service after knowing that some of his members had COVID-19. The Durham leader, who oversees the Knightdale church, said the pastor would be "reprimanded." Two women are convinced they were infected with the coronavirus at the worship service.

The event was called "The Evidence Encounter," hosted by Pastor Vontrell Johnson at a tiny church on rural Buffaloe Road.

George Bloomer said that this service was not sanctioned by his organization, CLURT.

"Back in March, when the stay-at-home order went out, I told them let's shut the churches down. I don't want them to do any special services -- none of that. That was the rule," Bloomer said. "We found out the services were going on after this story broke."

Christina Andrewz was one of the churchgoers who attended the service.

"The church was pretty packed on Friday," Andrewz said. "There wasn't a lot of room to socially distance, not a lot of people were wearing a mask."

On Monday, she said, she was rushed to the hospital with a cough and shortness of breath. She tested positive for COVID-19.

Johnson did not return phone or Facebook messages on Friday, and he didn't answer the door at home.

An independent news blog called The North Carolina Beat says it contacted Johnson Thursday morning and he "said he couldn’t legally speak on the matter and that he would be releasing a statement soon."

Another woman who attended the revival but did not want to be identified said she was told someone who had tested positive had been at the service.

After the event, that woman, too, tested positive for COVID-19.

On the door of the church Friday, a sign was posted that read: "We're closed due to the recent exposure to COVID-19 and for the health and well-being of the community."
Andrewz wants an apology.

"I just want to admonish people who attended that service to get tested," she said.

"We wanted to reach out to you so we can be very, very clear on what we feel and what our organization has told all of our pastors to do," Bloomer says. "This is bad. This is not good. We've told them to stream the services and I haven't approved of any parking lot meetings and any of those kind of things."

Bloomer says church leadership will be meeting with Johnson on Saturday.

He did not give any specifics about the reprimand, other than "he will be talked to."

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