UPDATE (7/14/2020 3:14 p.m.):
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The Covenant Church of Fairmont has released a statement in regard to a large gathering that occurred at its facility on July 12.
According to a release sent out by the church, the event which took place on the above date had been planned for more than nine months and, “was not a secret event,” and that, “the narrative established by social media is incorrect.”
The release claims that any article suggesting that the service “had people with COVID-19 attending” … “is false,” and that the church “worked diligently” to ensure that the event followed all state and local guidelines and that the church building had been closed from mid-March until mid-June.
When the church reopened, it took, “many steps to abide by guidelines to protect the people in attendance,” and that reports on social media or otherwise that the church took no precautions “are not true,” according to the release.
In order to keep parishioners safe, the church “have crews sanitizing [the] facility before and after services,” “removed seating from [the] sanctuary for better spacing” and “set up sanitizing stations stations” … “throughout the facility,” as well as sending out and posting information on new guidelines and setting up an overflow room, the release states.
According to the release, church officials did not anticipate the number of people who would attend the services on that day, but that the “sanctuary and overflow together will seat several hundred people,” and because of that, there was enough room “so there’s still room for social distancing.”
Church officials also stated that the rumors spreading on social media did not mention “how many people came to that service with a mask and removed it when they sat down,” and that “some family units will take multiple rows of seating,” nor did social media manage to “show the distance between seating.”
There were also some discrepancies between guidelines associated with houses of worship, the release states, and church officials spoke with local and state leaders in order to ensure the church was in compliance every guideline.
The release states that a post about the event which had been posted to the church’s Facebook page had been removed due to the “viciousness and vulgarity of those who deemed [the church] to have failed,” and that “the vile and nasty behavior is unnecessary.”
In order to ensure the safety of its members, the church has cancelled services for the next two weeks, according to the release.
ORIGINAL (7/13/2020 3:04 p.m.):
FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The Marion County Health Department has confirmed that more than 200 people were at a church event in Fairmont on Sunday.
According to the Marion County Health Department’s Director, Lloyd White, a church event at Covenant Church in Fairmont has potentially exposed more than 200 people to COVID-19.
After hearing about the July 12 event, White said he reached out to the church’s pastor in order to work together to get those who develop symptoms testing for the virus; White said that they don’t plan on doing any testing until five days after the initial exposure event because false negatives might result from it.
White said that he was disappointed that an organization would have an event of that size without taking the proper precautions or following Gov. Jim Justice’s restrictions, and that he nor any other member of the health department had prior knowledge of the event; if he did, White said he would have suggested they cancel or put the proper precautions in place for a crowd of that size.
Should this event result in a continued spike in cases in Marion County and/or Justice suggest more restrictions, White said that the health department does have the jurisdiction to put extra precautions in place to prevent the virus from continuing to spread.