SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento County is joining forces with a church that's at the center of a major coronavirus outbreak to help slow the spread of the virus.
According to a joint statement, Bethany Slavic Missionary Church reached out to the county on Wednesday, and now they are working together to move forward and slow the spread of coronavirus in their community.
Last week, County health leaders said at least 71 members of the congregation had been diagnosed with the virus. The County said most churches across the area have listened to the stay-at-home order and are holding virtual services, but the Bethany Slavic Missionary Church was still meeting in small groups.
Janna Haynes, with the County Health Department, said last week, "Inside of their community, there is a very real danger here. That is why we want them to stop gathering together."
Now, the church and the county are moving forward together to "shed light on the danger that even small gatherings, whether religious or not, pose to the spread of this virus."
Haynes said last week the small-group scenario could be worse than gathering in the church because people are together for hours in close contact, which is how the virus spreads.
After the reports about the gatherings and cases came out last week, the church fired back at the media and health department. The statement read in part: "These reports are believed to be inaccurate and falsely place emphasis on this church. The church did not condone any church-related in-person gatherings... media repetition of such unfounded representations invite ridicule, hatred and violence..."
As part of the joint statement released Thursday, the county and church condemned the "public hate that has been shown toward the church."
The church said because of the "social shaming" they closed their food closet, which is a big resource to the community. County spokesperson Janna Haynes said the county hopes the food closet can be reopened for the community.
"Sacramento County does not condone ridicule, hatred or violence toward this church, our Slavic residents and Slavic health care workers on the front lines of this public health crisis," the statement read.
They also focused on how COVID-19 has impacted the Slavic community, noting that while there is a large outbreak in this community, not all positive cases are from Bethany. Moving forward, the church leadership and county representative are vowing to keep open lines of communication, share materials and outreach tactics.
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