At least 82 confirmed coronavirus cases have been linked to convocation events held earlier this month by the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, the most populous city and county seat in the state of Mecklenburg-Kreis.
Three deaths, five hospitalizations and an accumulation of cases among eight residents of Madison Saints Paradise South, a senior citizens’ residential community in Charlotte, were linked to the church events, which took place from October 4 to 11, the Mecklenburg County Health Department confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
According to district officials, at least 1,000 people are said to have participated in the events.
According to guidelines issued by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), places of worship should be limited to 100 people per room or 30 percent of the specified fire capacity, whichever is lower.
“If there is no fire capacity figure for the room, occupancy should be limited to 100 people or 7 people per 1000 square feet, whichever is lower,” the NCDHHS stated.
A social distance of at least six feet should be maintained between groups other than those in their homes, while it is “strongly recommended” that all staff and congressmen wear face coverings.
“Do not allow singing or chanting in the choir, as the risk of virus spread is increased by increased breathing efforts,” the NCDHHS said.
Dr. Raynard Washington, the Deputy Director of Health for the State of Mecklenburg, said, “When many people come together, it is very difficult to ensure that people actually stay within six feet of each other. It is important not only to wear the mask, but also to maintain the distance”.
The Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state health department tried to contact 131 close contacts of the 82 confirmed cases, and at least 127 people were tested, the statement said.
Anyone who has attended recent church events or has been in contact with someone who has attended the events is advised to get tested for the virus.
“The Public Health Department of the State of Mecklenburg will offer a free COVID 19 Drive Thru test tomorrow, Friday, October 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Northwest Health Department’s location, 2845 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, NC 28216,” the statement issued by the Public Health Department of the State of Mecklenburg on Thursday said.
A local resident, Catherine Williams (who was tested for COVID-19 on Thursday as a precautionary measure) reported that her mother-in-law died after attending one of the recent church events, while her mother-in-law’s sister, who also attended the event, was hospitalized, Charlotte’s WBTV reported.
While her mother-in-law died before she could be tested for the virus, her mother-in-law’s sister tested positive.
“First they diagnosed her [her mother-in-law’s sister]with pneumonia, and now they said she had COVID,” Williams told WBTV.
Her mother-in-law lived in a nursing home in Charlotte, and according to Williams, she also voted in a place for early voting on the Monday before she died.
While it remains to be confirmed whether any of the family members fell ill as a result of attending the church event, Williams expressed concern about the risks involved.
“North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, they are coming here for a big event. My thing is that with COVID they should have just cancelled the event,” Williams told WBTV.
“They had masks on, but it was just the fact that people were coming here from different states.
“People lost their lives, and people just need to be a little bit safer,” she added.
The total number of confirmed cases in North Carolina is approaching 253,000 on Friday, with a total of 4,082 reported deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
The average daily number of new cases in North Carolina has been on an upward trend for the past two weeks from October 9 to 22, reaching a peak of 2,080 cases on October 15, according to data compiled by the JHU.
According to the JHU, the average number has risen sharply since the end of September, after declining since the end of July and rising since mid-March.
The overall picture
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 41.8 million people worldwide, including over 8.4 million in the United States, since its first report in Wuhan, China. More than 1.1 million people worldwide are