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A person who tested positive for COVID-19 attended a crowded church service, potentially exposing 180 people

Staying one step ahead of COVID-19
Staying one step ahead of COVID-19 06:00

A person in Butte County, California, went to a crowded in-person church service on Mother's Day and then tested positive for COVID-19 one day later. Now health officials say the person potentially exposed 180 others at the church.

An investigation and contract tracing by Butte County Public Health (BCPH) is now underway. In a statement, public health officials said individuals attending the service have been notified of their exposure and have been instructed to self-quarantine. The department also said it's working with health care partners to get testing for people who attended the service. 

The infected person went into isolation after testing positive — but it was one day too late. Even though gatherings of any size have been officially barred since Governor Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order went into effect on March 19, the church still opened its doors, putting members of the congregation at risk.

"This decision comes at a cost of many hours and a financial burden to respond effectively to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19," the BCPH statement reads, adding that such incidents could slow the county's ability to move forward with reopening plans.

"At this time, organizations that hold in-person services or gatherings are putting the health and safety of their congregations, the general public and our local ability to open up at great risk," BCPH Director Danette York said in the statement.

The health department did not name the church involved, but according to Chico/Redding CBS affiliate KHSL-TV, the pastor of the church, located in the town of Palermo, has spoken out about the matter.

"An individual tested positive for it," said Pastor Mike Jacobsen. "They didn't feel sick in any way."

The county, which is located in the north-central part of the state, has a plan to reopen in stages. Stage 2 reopening plan still does not allow gatherings, which may be considered in Stage 3, the statement reads. 

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