An Arkansas church that followed medical advice and canceled services has nonetheless seen nearly three dozen members test positive for coronavirus after a children’s event that was held in early March.
Donald Shipp, a deacon at First Assembly of God church in Greers Ferry, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 34 people who went to the event at the Cleburne County church had tested positive for the virus, and that more were awaiting test results.
Danyelle McNeill of the Arkansas Department of Health said a number of cases have been linked to a church in Cleburne County, which she did not identify.
“We are still investigating newly reported cases and can’t definitively say they are all connected to one church,” McNeill told NBC News on March 26. “This is a cluster within a larger outbreak in that area of the state.”
There were at least 310 reported coronavirus cases and two deaths in Arkansas as of March 26.
Mark Palenske, a pastor at the church, said on Facebook late last week that he and his wife, Dena, were among those to test positive. He said that when such a virus spreads on the other side of the world, “your first inclination is to assume that time and distance are on your side.”
The couple and many others from their church initially could not get tested, according to Palenske.
“One local doctor had a very small number of commercial tests and the rest is history, I suppose,” he wrote. The couple’s symptoms began with headaches followed by intense body aches and lethargy, as well as waves of chills, sweating and nausea, Palenske wrote in his post.
“Dena had a very scary morning a few days ago, which included a seizure of sorts and required hospitalization,” he said. His wife’s condition has since improved and they are both back home, he said. Palenske said he could not pinpoint “where the virus came from.”