EATON COUNTY, MI – At least 58 people have tested positive for COVID-19 after reportedly being exposed to the novel coronavirus at Liberty Church in Grand Ledge, health officials announced Thursday.
Five of those who tested positive have since been hospitalized and four are currently receiving inpatient care, but none are in the Intensive Care Unit, according to a news release issued by the Barry-Eaton District Health Department Oct. 29.
The outbreak was first identified last week and is still ongoing. The number of positive cases and hospitalizations may continue to rise in the coming days due to further spread of the coronavirus, health officials warned.
Most of the individuals associated with the outbreak first began experiencing symptoms the week of Oct. 12, according to the news release.
Health officials said some of the church-goers have been reluctant to speak with the health department during contact tracing efforts.
“We request that community members please answer the phone and speak candidly with our investigators,” health officials wrote in a prepared statement.
“This helps us to stop the chain of transmission to others. The identity of COVID-19 positive individuals are held confidential.”
Eaton County health officials believe most of the individuals were exposed at a worship service on Oct. 11, and further exposure may have occurred at church events in the week before and after the service.
Many of those who attended the church events chose not to wear masks, health officials said. Mask use was not required at Liberty Church events.
“We are encouraging individuals who were present at events at Liberty Church or came into contact with those who attend Liberty Church to pay special attention to any symptoms or changes in their health, and seek testing if COVID-19 symptoms arise,” the news release said.
Church activities can spread COVID-19 as church-goers engage in close physical contact or singing, spreading more virus particles further into the air, health officials warned.
The Barry-Eaton District Health Department urged the community to continue practicing social distancing and safety protocols like hand washing and mask wearing.
“All of these are scientifically shown to reduce the spread of disease and save lives,” health officials wrote.
The number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are up across Michigan, with the state’s seven-day average now at 2,365 new cases a day and the positivity rate at 6.6%.
Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has confirmed 167,545 confirmed of COVID-19 and 7,257 deaths. There also are another 18,389 probable cases and 349 probable deaths.
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