May 19, 2020 - Health

CDC: Arkansas coronavirus outbreak linked to church services

A protestor in Maryland. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

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.

The big picture: Outside of public service announcements on hygiene and social distancing, the CDC has largely left guidance on whether to reopen places of worship to the states.

  • In Arkansas, the state banned indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, but exempted religious services.
  • Almost 200 people are being quarantined after a possible cluster in California was identified after people attended a church service on Mother's Day, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Kentucky and Kansas both had federal court rulings against their governors' orders to temporarily ban mass gatherings at religious services.

The bottom line: Even with care and caution, in-person congregations can become hotbeds for coronavirus outbreaks as some states begin to reopen public spaces and businesses.

Go deeper: Major coronavirus outbreaks around the world have been tied to religion

Go deeper

The mystery of coronavirus superspreaders

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A small percentage of people — called superspreaders — may be responsible for a large number of COVID-19 infections, research is starting to indicate.

Why it matters: While there's no method to detect who these people are before they infect others, there are ways to control behaviors that cause superspreading events — a key issue as states start to reopen and debate what types of events are OK.

Updated 11 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

San Francisco officials unveiled reopening plans Thursday mandating residents wear face masks or coverings in essentially all public places and stand at least six feet away from one another.

Why it matters: Several cities and states that are reopening are doing so under the condition that masks be worn in public. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order giving power to private businesses to deny service to people without masks.

Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and his wife Anne Holton. Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Hillary Clinton's vice presidential pick in 2016, announced Thursday that both he and his wife, Anne Holton, tested positive for coronavirus antibodies after suffering from flu-like symptoms in March and April.

What he's saying: While Kaine said their doctors believed they might have the virus after previously testing positive for the flu, he and his wife were not tested because of a shortage at the time — and the fact that they were both working remotely and isolated at home already.