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Virus cases tied to church events increasing in Johnston County

North Carolina Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said state leaders have seen coronavirus clusters tied to religious gatherings and events.

Posted Updated

Kasey Cunningham
Leslie Moreno, WRAL reporters
PRINCETON, N.C. — State health leaders are sounding the alarm after multiple COVID-19 outbreaks were tied to local churches.

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said state leaders have seen coronavirus clusters tied to religious gatherings and events. According to the NCDHHS, there have been a total of 88 reported religious clusters in the state.

Cohen said cases connected to religious gatherings are quickly spiking.

"That could be a religious setting, or a Bible study or another kind of meeting, so it is those settings we are seeing spread," she added.

The most recent cluster was in Johnston County at Princeton Church, where WRAL News received multiple messages saying at least 20 cases were reported there.

Pastor Matthew Cornett didn't confirm how many cases the church has seen but said all were contained to a recent youth event. He said no cases were linked with the church's adult services and that the church is cooperating with the local health department by contact tracing and following quarantine procedures.

However, he said he could not go into details about the trip. Cornett did say their student ministry that meets on Wednesday has been canceled, as well as all midweek services for this week and the next.

Johnston County released the following statement about the cluster:

"Johnston County has had and continues to have cases associated with religious services in multiple areas of our county, some prior to the state defining clusters. Public Health staff are working with the facilities and providing them with the information they need as well as encouraging them to follow the CDC recommendations."

Cohen recommended outdoor or virtual mass if possible and said people need to control the cases now to avoid a possible shutdown.

"It's always possible we would need to take a step backwards," Cohen said. "I don't want to see that happen. The governor doesn't want to see that. Business leaders don't want to. So let's do the work right now together."

Mecklenburg County has also seen a rise in cases connected to religious gatherings.

The Charlotte Observer reported at least 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 connected to convocation events at the United House of Prayer for All People. Everyone who attended the Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 events was urged to get tested. At least three people who attended the events died.

Daily cases increasing in North Carolina

New coronavirus cases and deaths continue to affect the state at record rates.

The averages for both reached a new high on Monday, with average new cases peaking at 2,081, tying Saturday's record. The state is now averaging 33 coronavirus-related deaths a day, which is up from 19 deaths a day just two weeks ago.

At least 4,170 people in North Carolina have now died from the virus.


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