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

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Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Trump lashes out at governors, calls for National Guard to "dominate" streets

President Trump berated the nation’s governors in a video teleconference call Monday, calling many of them "weak" and demanding tougher crackdowns on the protests that erupted throughout the country following the killing of George Floyd, according to audio of the call.

The latest: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing Monday that Trump's call for law enforcement to "dominate" protesters referred to "dominating the streets" with a robust National Guard presence in order to maintain the peace.