Church defies coronavirus lockdown orders — now 71 parishioners are infected and one has died

A California church based in Sacramento County has earned the dubious distinction of being an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, leaving state officials frustrated over church leaders who are ignoring demands to stop worship meetings.

Bethany Slavic Missionary Church, near Rancho Cordova has 71 members infected, The Sacramento Bee reports. The virus has killed one parishioner, officials say, and the pastor is sick.

Sacramento health officials have repeatedly tried to convince church leaders to change course via phone and personal visits.

“They’ve basically told us to leave them alone,” said Sacramento County Health Chief Dr. Peter Beilenson. “This is extremely irresponsible and dangerous for the community.”

While the church has stopped its main weekly services, Beilenson added congregants are continuing to meet in each other’s homes for fellowship meetings, and have at one point told a county nurse that the meetings are important to the community.

Beilenson and other county officials decided to allow news outlets to release the name of the church in order to encourage people to stay away. Officials say they also hope the disclosure will discourage members to discontinue the meetings.

“This is a very serious public health matter,” Beilenson added.

Current reports have noted that nearly one-third of Sacramento County’s coronavirus cases are linked to churches. Beilenson and other officials are asking churches to stick to strictly online services, either through Zoom, Skype or other virtual communities.

Megan Hamilton

Megan Hamilton has traveled extensively throughout the Southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America. A lifelong atheist, these travels have informed her political views. She currently lives in a remote location with a large herd of cats and four dogs.