38% of Arkansas church infected by virus in week… Priests infected at reopened Texas church

CDC: Arkansas coronavirus outbreak linked to church services

35 of the 92 people (38%) who attended services at a rural Arkansas church March 6–11 tested positive for the coronavirus, ultimately killing three, according to a case study released Tuesday by the CDC.

Why it matters: Places of worship continue to be a problem for controlling the widespread transmission of the coronavirus, especially as some churches and local government officials push to loosen restrictions on religious gatherings.

  • Contact tracing found that an additional 26 people were infected after interacting with attendees of the church, and one person from that group died.
  • Most of the cases were aged 19 and older.
  • Both the pastor and his wife developed coronavirus symptoms and closed the church indefinitely on March 12.

Catholic church closes after priests get coronavirus

HOUSTON (AP) — A Catholic church in Houston has closed its doors after five of its leaders tested positive for COVID-19, including two priests who had helped celebrate public masses which had resumed earlier this month.

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The closure and positive tests come after a priest from Holy Ghost parish, 79-year-old Donnell Kirchner, died last week. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, but health officials are determining whether he might have contracted the virus before he died May 13.

Kirchner went to an urgent care clinic and later to a hospital emergency room. But after being released, he went back to the home he shared with members of his religious order, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said Monday in a statement.

Masses at the church had resumed May 2 as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the state in phases from coronavirus restrictions. Sunday masses had never exceeded 179 people, or about 20% of the church’s seating capacity, the diocese said.