A Florida church confirmed this week that a member is one of two people in the Tampa Bay area confirmed by the CDC to have tested positive for the COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus. The church assured members of the public that the person's contact with other members of the congregation was minimal.
“Based on all information we have been able to obtain, the person in question has not been on the church campus in the last two weeks. It has been over three weeks since this individual was on church property. Second, that most recent visit to our campus was not during a worship service, and very few people would have had any direct contact with this individual on the day in question,” Parrish United Methodist Church in Florida announced in a statement on Facebook Wednesday.
Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, said at a news conference cited by Fox 13 that a woman in her 20s who tested positive in Hillsborough County recently traveled to northern Italy, where there is an outbreak of COVID-19. She is currently in stable condition and is in isolation at home.
A second patient, a man in his 60s from Manatee County, also contracted the disease but he did not recently travel to one of the areas identified by the CDC as at risk for infection, so they are still investigating how he got the virus. Rivkees said the man was hospitalized for pneumonia when he tested presumptive positive for coronavirus on Saturday evening.
"At the present time, it is not known how this individual was exposed to COVID-19," Rivkees said. "This is a rapidly evolving situation.”
While it was not revealed which of the infected individuals attended Parrish UMC, pastor Chris Schmidt said he sent an email to both staff and members in the spirit of transparency. He also urged them to keep the identity of the individual confidential.
“We do, however, ask you to join us in prayer for all those affected by this illness," Schmidt said in the email. "We will continue to take the steps necessary to provide a safe environment for our church family."
In all, Florida has monitored 795 people for coronavirus, with 184 people still being monitored now, Fox 13 said. Some 23 people have been tested for the virus.
So far, 11 deaths have been linked to the virus — one in California and the rest in the Seattle area — with 162 confirmed cases across the country, The New York Times reported. With new infections reported in New Jersey and Tennessee, the number of states with infected patients rose to 18.
Globally, more than 90,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus with more than 3,100 of them dying from the virus which currently has no vaccine and is described as deadlier than the flu.
With infections in Europe now passing 4,000 and rising fast, major conferences, trade shows, cultural events and sporting competitions have been canceled, The Times said, and officials only see things getting worse.