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Hendersonville church event tied to 98 COVID cases
Friday, 01 January 2021 14:36

From Staff Reports

HENDERSONVILLE — Officials from the Henderson County Department of Public Health reported on Dec. 22 that 98 COVID-19 cases have been linked to a Christmas pageant on Dec. 5, 6 and 7 by First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, according to a Dec. 23 story by Asheville television station WLOS (News 13).

In its initial report on Dec. 16, the health department had said 72 cases were tied to the event, meaning that, “in one week, that number has jumped by 26 cases,” News 13 added.

The church released a statement Dec. 16 saying its leadership had decided to pause all on-site church worship for 30 days, and would re-evaluate the conditions to see if the church can return to in-person services and activities in mid-January.

In mid-December, the health department noted that it was working to identify any additional close contacts of these individuals, it said. The Center for Disease Control defines “close contact” as being within about six feet of an infected person with COVID -19 for a cumulative 15 minutes.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services defines clusters of COVID-18 in non-congregate settings as a minumum of fix cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.

“Although the church gatherings were large, they did not violate the law, health department spokesman Andrew Mundhenk said,” according to a report in the Dec. 23 edition of the Hendersonville Lightning newspaper.

The Lightning then quoted Mundhenk as saying, “While Gov. (Roy) Cooper’s indoor mass gathering limit of 10 people remains in effect, worship, religious, spiritual gatherings, wedding ceremonies, funeral services and other First Amendment activites are not subject to it.”

The Lightning also reported that Robert Bridges, the chairman of the church’s board of deacons, said in its interview with him that the choir sang, unmasked, and the church orchestra played without face coverings.

 Regarding his church’s COVID-19 problem, the Rev. Steve Scoggins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, released the following statement on the church’s website Dec. 22

“Our hearts and our prayers go out to all who have struggled with sickness this past few weeks. I have contacted and prayed with many and I believe God’s mercy is still being felt in our midst.

“I am so grateful for our hospitals and health care workers and all they are doing to help people get past this crisis. I welcome the vaccinations that will arrive sometime in our future. I believe they will be God’s way to help bring this crisis to an end.

“This is a dangerous time. I urge everyone of you to take every precaution you can when you go out. A retired military officer in our church gave me a powerful analogy. He spent much of his career in the middle east with daily temperatures reaching 120 degrees. As hot as it was, no soldier would think of going without their flak jackets. We need to consider our masks to be our flak jackets and wear them consistently.

“I know God has a way of bringing good about from the worst circumstances. The fact that the precautions we thought had kept us safe here at First Baptist failed us may be God’s way of warning others to take seriously the dangers we are facing.

“I believe it will be some time before it will be wise and safe to meet again for in person worship.

“Even though we are not meeting in person, we can never stop being the church. We live in a day when we have so many ways we can stay in contact with each other. I encourage you to make calls, send texts, keep up with each other on social media.

“If you need us, call us at the church. Our office will be open for anyone who needs to call us or come by. I love you all and am praying for you all.”



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