According to a report from West Virginia Public Broadcasting, a sudden spike in COVID-19 infections in the state has local authorities placing the blame on seven different churches as hot spots.
The report notes that earlier this summer the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources pinned infection outbreaks in Ohio, Marshall, Hampshire, Marion and Jefferson counties on churches. Graystone Baptist Church in Ronceverte, Greenbrier County, in particular was the home to 40 parishioners who tested positive for the coronavirus.
The new outbreak has reportedly hit about 75 West Virginians linked to seven churches in Kanawha, Boone, Logan, Raleigh, Grant, Taylor and Wood counties.
According to the report, "At least 48 people had tested positive for the coronavirus by Monday afternoon, all of whom were linked to the North Charleston Apostolic Church in Kanawha County."
In the case of Taylor County, four cases were tied to a bible study class for adults. In Boone County, health investigators linked four of the eight cases to a church that hosted a three-day vacation bible school for kids.
Dr. Ayne Amjad with the Bureau for Public Health called upon churches to emphasize online services, saying in a statement: "We want to encourage everyone to still have online services if possible, but we are going to lend our support to the churches."
According to Julie Miller of the Boone County Health Department, part of the problem stems from churchgoers who did not heed Gov. Jim Justice’s mask mandate which went into effect Tuesday, July 7.
“We’re still trying to get everybody to wear masks everywhere, especially when they go to church,” Miller explained.