A medical professional collects a nasal swab from a potential COVID-19 patient at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for anyone who is experiencing symptoms at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The test can be uncomfortable because the nasal swab must travel far up the nose to capture a good sample. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After reopening its doors, coronavirus cases force Ringgold church to go back online 

Health officials are investigating three individual cases of COVID-19 that stemmed from services at a Ringgold church.

The church, Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle, like many places of worship in Georgia, had switched to holding online only services for weeks because of the spread of the potentially deadly virus. 

In late April, however, church officials decided to reopen the doors for in-person services. 

Two weeks later the church, which is located about 100 miles northwest of Atlanta, canceled in-person services once again when some church members contracted the virus. 

Senior Pastor Justin Gazaway, could not be reached for comment.

“We understand that people want to stay connected with their church families and many have been able to do that online, but the risk of becoming infected or infecting others by attending a church  service, or any gathering, is not insignificant, said  Logan Boss, public information officer for the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest District. 

It’s unclear whether those people who tested positive are members of the same family.

“Our hearts are heavy as some of our families are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we ask for your prayers for each of them as they follow the prescribed protocol and recuperate at home,” the church said in a statement, according to the Christian Post.

The church noted in the statement that roughly 25% of congregants had attended the  in-person worship services during the time  it was reopened, according to the Christian Post.

The church followed social distancing and other safety recommendations, according to the article.

In March, a Cartersville church was linked to multiple infections from COVID-19.

“We’re trying to prevent that from happening again,” said Boss.

Georgia is among the states that have reopened several businesses after statewide shelter-in-place orders.

There has been concern by health officials about houses of worship resuming in-person services, even if they forgo practices like shaking hands and communion or don’t have child care services. There have been numerous cases where the spread of the novel coronavirus was traced to church gatherings.

In a study published Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced a cluster of COVID-19 cases to a church in rural Arkansas, further raising concern.

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