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The Latest on cases tied to a Sacramento church (April 3, 5 p.m.):

In response to reports about the cases, Bethany Slavic Missionary Church released a statement Friday, which was posted to their website and reads in part:

Bethany Slavic Missionary Church believes in the value of community health and
human well-being. The church has complied with all federal, state, and local guidelines and
regulations at the time of issuance.

Bethany Slavic Missionary Church

A Sacramento County spokesperson also released a statement Friday about the cases tired to a Sacramento-area church. It reads in part:

While we know that the church as a whole has ceased to meet and the leadership is hosting online services, we have been told by multiple sources that there are groups that continue to meet in homes, despite the public health order to not gather with anyone outside of household members. These gatherings have been directly linked to the clusters of cases in the community.

In no way does Sacramento County condone ridicule, hatred or violence toward this church, any other church or any member of society. The only goal is to gain compliance to the public health order not to gather in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among county residents.

Janna Haynes, Sacramento County Public Information Officer

Original story below:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento County director of Health Services says one Sacramento-area church is the source for 71 infected people and so far, church leaders are not helping to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Bethany Slavic Missionary Church has been closed for two weeks but the county says a congregation of mainly Russian-speaking worshipers is continuing to gather in residences.

“Two weeks ago, they stopped doing their services on-site at their church,” said Sacramento County Department of Health Services Director Dr. Peter Beilenson.

But despite that, Dr. Beilenson said leadership at Bethany Slavic Missionary Church on Jackson Road, near Rancho Cordova, has been extremely irresponsible.

“As far as we know, there still seems to be some gatherings outside of the church in people’s homes,” Beilenson explained.

Beilenson said little is being done by the church to put an end to it.

“We really would implore them to implore their practitioners to follow the order and not have congregations in their own family houses or their offices,” he told FOX40.

The Sacramento County Department of Health Services says it has not had issues with other Russian congregations like it has with Bethany Slavic Missionary.

One of the assistant pastors at the church told FOX40 by phone that he disagrees with what the county is saying. He said they are trying to translate as much of the county guidelines into Russian as possible to let the congregation know they should be socially distancing themselves. 

But he said it is a large congregation and it is difficult to convince everyone.

The church is offering services online.

But with 3,500 people attending there, according to the county, it appears some are not getting the message.

“People are thinking that it’s not so important and they’re basically still visiting each other,” said Lyedmila Retrov, with Russian American Media.

That’s why RAM, based in Sacramento, is trying to produce more public service announcements.

RAM says there are 31,000 Russian-speaking people in Yolo County and 112,000 in Sacramento County, with 12,000 of those in Rancho Cordova alone. Many of those people live in the same neighborhoods and apartment complexes.

“We do have a language barrier,” Petrov said. “We’re doing a lot of material and products that are going to be coming out in Russian, in English, side by side to help the Russian community to understand the severity of this coronavirus.”

Sacramento County has made health information available in Russian.