Local pastor advises churches to suspend large gatherings during pandemic

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The church doors at the Capital Christian Center in Sacramento have been closed to the public for more than three weeks. 

The church’s pastor, Rick Cole, is hoping other faith groups opt to worship online instead of in person. 

Cole made the decision to transition services to online streaming due to COVID-19 concerns after returning from a trip to Israel in early March. 

“We really know that it’s best to be safe and not congregate and we started that process that weekend,” Cole told FOX40.

Since then, several other churches have followed suit. 

But on Wednesday, health officials in Sacramento County announced nearly one-third of confirmed cases in the county are linked to church-related gatherings, outside of regular church services. 

Janna Haynes, a public information officer with Sacramento County, told FOX40 the county was able to trace certain COVID-19 cases back to small worship gatherings. 

“These are people that are gathering midweek in small groups, in their homes,” said Haynes. “When we received several positive tests from people that were in a very small, tight-knit community, then we were able to go in and do further investigation.”

As more states order people to stay at home, religious leaders across the country are choosing to still worship in groups.

“It really concerns me when churches and leaders feel like there is something that’s against them, like persecution, not to be able able to meet. It has nothing to do with that. Really, this is a temporary process,” explains Cole.

“At this time, it is too risky for people to gather together,” asserted Haynes.

Now, they are urging local faith groups and churches to take the necessary steps to keep people safe. 

“As we go into a month now where we have Palm Sunday and Easter and it’s very natural for people to want to gather together to celebrate, even for families to want to get together and do Easter egg hunts,” said Haynes.

“I’m hopeful that we can continue to follow protocols. Get us through it quicker and safer,” said Cole.

The county is now working to educate faith groups and businesses about the importance of protecting themselves from COVID-19. 

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