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The Worst Place You Could Go Right Now, Says Doctor

More than 650 cases have been tied to churches.

At just 17, Carsyn Leigh Davis probably never expected to see her face on the front page of every national news website. And she never lived to see it happen. The teenager, who battled cancer and a rare autoimmune disorder, died after contracting COVID-19. "Even through the ravages of Covid, fighting to breathe, she never once shed a tear, complained or expressed fear," her mother, Carole Brunton Davis, wrote in a statement shared on one of the fundraising pages.

Unfortunately, this sad story gets even sadder. "A medical examiner's report recently made public, however, has raised questions about Carsyn's case," reports The Washington Post. "The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner found that the immunocompromised teen went to a large church party with roughly 100 other children where she did not wear a mask and social distancing was not enforced."

Her story was not uncommon. Churches, say some experts, are superspreaders of COVID-19.

More Than 650 Cases Tied to Church

The New York Times database shows more than 650 COVID-19 cases "have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, with many of them erupting over the last month as Americans resumed their pre-pandemic activities." 

"Weeks after President Trump demanded that America's shuttered houses of worship be allowed to reopen," continued the paper, "new outbreaks of the coronavirus are surging through churches across the country where services have resumed. The virus has infiltrated Sunday sermons, meetings of ministers and Christian youth camps in Colorado and Missouri. It has struck churches that reopened cautiously with face masks and social distancing in the pews, as well as some that defied lockdowns and refused to heed new limits on numbers of worshipers.

Pastors and their families have tested positive, as have church ushers, front-door greeters and hundreds of churchgoers. In Texas, about 50 people contracted the virus after a pastor told congregants they could once again hug one another."

The paper notes that even in churches where social distancing guidelines were followed, people still tested positive for coronavirus.

Indoor Activities Are Dangerous

One obvious cause for the spread is that, when you get a bunch of people indoors, be it in a church, or in a bar or at a party, they are in a poorly-ventilated area with others spreading infectious droplets. "One of the worst things any of us can do right now is to go to an indoor location where we are in close contact with large numbers of people with whom we have not been sheltering—and it's even worse if we do that without wearing a mask," says Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., senior director of infection prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Additionally, church choirs have been shown to spread disease. In May, the CDC issued a report about a high coronavirus "attack rate following exposure at choir practice" in Skagit County, Washington. "Superspreading events involving SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been reported," read the report. "Following a 2.5-hour choir practice attended by 61 persons, including a symptomatic index patient, 32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred (attack rate = 53.3% to 86.7%); three patients were hospitalized, and two died. Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing."

The Worst Thing You Could Do at Church

The worst thing you could do at church is hold a large gathering indoors. If your service is essential, hold it outdoors—and cancel the choir for now. Additionally, wear your face mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, monitor your health, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek
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