LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - State health officials released the names of at least 40 churches in the state with COVID-19 exposure, with several churches in Region 8.
According to a list sent to Region 8 News by the Arkansas Department of Health Friday, the churches included Central Baptist Church-Central Campus in Jonesboro, Big T Apostolic Church in Corning, Harrison Chapel Baptist Church in Beebe, Oak Hill Church of God in Forrest City and First United Pentecostal Church in Beebe.
“The information provided in this report represents exposure locations for the full duration of the COVID-19 pandemic until 6/25/2020. The information presented was reported to the Arkansas Department of Health during case surveillance and contact tracing efforts as reported by a known COVID-19 case. The church locations are places patients reported visiting during their infectious period, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate they became infected there,” the information from state officials said. “As more cases are contacted, the information found in this report will change.”
However, on Saturday, Arkansas Department of Health Director of Communications Meg Mirivel said Oak Hill Church of God in Forrest City should not have been on the list.
“We have been in touch with the leadership there to express our apologies,” Mirivel said.
Mirivel said there appeared to be a mistake in ADH’s records that have since been corrected.
Dr. Archie Mason with Central Baptist Church said the Arkansas Department of Health has not reached out to them about the issue.
Late Friday, the church released a statement on its Facebook page.
“The release also defines a cluster as, 2-11 people, but we have not been told the number of people or when they attended one of our services options,” the post noted. “Since our re-opening in late May, we have diligently followed all state health guidelines and have offered 3 service options with strict social distancing. We have had less than 20% capacity in each of those services. Our worship center, bathrooms, and other areas are cleaned and sanitized between each service, our staff and volunteers wear face covering, and we offer multiple personal hand sanitizing stations throughout the building. We are doing everything we can to make sure everything is safe, secure, and spacious, and that we are following all health and safety guidelines. As soon as we are able to get more information from the state and any possible directives, we will share that information with you,” the church said in the statement.
Church officials are also asking people to remember those impacted by the virus.
“Let’s remember to continue to pray for the sick, our health care workers, public safety, and elected officials… as well as our city, state, nation, and world as we continue to deal with this pandemic. Also, let’s remember to be careful and prayerful, but not fearful because God is in control,” the post noted.
Region 8 News also heard Friday evening from a White County church on the list.
Rich Price with Gracepoint Church in Beebe said First United Pentecostal Church was on the list and that it was the church’s name years ago.
Price said he never heard from the Arkansas Department of Health on the issue and that the first time he heard about the COVID-19 issue was when someone told him about our report Friday.
Price noted that the church has done several things to help prevent an exposure to COVID-19, including enforcing social distancing to removing seating at the church.
Gov. Hutchinson said a majority of churches in the state were following health guidelines, noting those who were not have seen an increase in case numbers.
“That’s something we encourage our pastors and our churches to realize the consequence of not following the guidelines you can have a number of cases break out and you can actually have some very ill people and people can die from this virus,” Gov. Hutchinson said.
The governor also said he was avoiding creating or giving directives to specific churches on the issue, but that state health officials are discussing the issue with churches in the clusters.
Earlier Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Dr. Nate Smith, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Health, updated the public on the state’s response to the coronavirus, including the latest cases of COVID-19 and deaths.
Gov. Hutchinson reported the latest COVID-19 numbers in the state.
Gov. Hutchinson also broke down the hospitalizations and ICU beds by region.
The governor shows where people with active cases have been in the past 14 days.
Gov. Hutchinson has asked ABC officers to report bars/restaurants not complying with ADH health directives.
Dr. Nate Smith breaks down the COVID-19 numbers.