Southern Baptists come home from annual gathering with COVID-19: 'Do we assume there are more? Yes'

A small coronavirus outbreak has been linked to last month's annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Tennessee.

The organization has not yet notified more than 15,000 evangelical Christians about the cluster of positive tests linked to the mid-June gathering at Nashville's Music City Center, although health officials say the outbreak was large enough to justify alerting attendees from all 50 states, reported the Tennesseean.

"We have eight to 10 cases confirmed," said Metro Health epidemiologist Leslie Waller. "Do we assume there are more? Yes. Can we give you any idea as to how many more? No, we can't."

Nashville lifted its mask mandate and gathering restrictions a month before the event, which drew its largest crowd since 1995, and few attendees wore masks or practiced social distancing at the event.

It's not known whether any of the positive cases involved the highly contagious delta variant responsible for many of the most recent outbreaks around the U.S., Waller said.

Public polling has shown that evangelical conservatives, especially in the South, have the highest level of vaccine hesitancy of any other demographic group.