A church in East Lansing and one in Holt have closed temporarily because of COVID-19 concerns.
At least 13 COVID-19 cases are tied to the Pentecostals of East Lansing, which suspended in-person church services earlier this month.
One of the church’s members contracted the disease while living in a “shared housing situation” and then attended a July 1 service, Pastor Gary Gauthier wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“To date, we have 12 cases from people that were in our July 1st service and 1 additional case from someone that was not in that service,” Gauthier said.
The initial COVID-19 case started with a woman who learned she had COVID-19 on July 4, according to Gauthier. Requests for comment weren’t immediately returned by Gauthier.
The church has shifted to online services and is currently in the middle of a 14-day shutdown.
St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Holt also shut down due to COVID-19.
“A member came to church July 5 whose son tested positive July 3, but she hadn’t seen her son since June 28. There was a five-day lag since she saw him and when he tested positive,” Pastor Dean Poellet said on Wednesday morning.
The church emailed congregants about the possible case on July 11 and then cancelled its July 12 service.
“The lady has not been tested that we know of,” Poellet added. “She had no symptoms. We are waiting to see what happens.”
COVID-19 at Lansing-area churches
St. Matthew Lutheran Church doesn’t require members to wear masks, which is advised by federal health officials to combat the coronavirus.Get the News Alerts newsletter in your inbox.
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The church explained its perspective on mask wearing in an email to parishioners on June 27:
“If you want to wear a mask, please do so. We are not requiring that because the ‘experts’ still don’t know if they really help or not,” the email reads. “Then you get into the whole issue of what type of mask to wear which no one has good answers on yet. Since the experts obviously didn’t know anything about how to prevent this pandemic whatever they say is open to debate for now…”
The church did implement social distancing and strict cleaning measures after reopening on June 28, said Poellet, who added, “We are not requiring face masks. We suggest that if they want to they can.”
Poellet later emailed Lansing State Journal on Wednesday with additional thoughts about masking-wearing:
“Since June 27th I would say there is much clearer guidance & research now that masks are apparently helpful at minimizing the spread of the virus,” he wrote. “However, to my knowledge, no one is giving guidance about which masks are effective & which ones aren’t, or how we can tell if someone has worn the mask only once or if they’ve worn it ten times. It sure would be nice if the scientific & medical communities could get a handle on this virus.”
At the Pentecostals of East Lansing, Gauthier requested in a July 9 email that congregants not discuss the outbreak outside the church.
“I’m begging you to please keep this within the confines of our church family. We are doing our best to contain the virus and not spread it. Let’s not spread it through unnecessary sharing,” Gauthier wrote.
The email caused at least one member to go public.
“It was not my desire to withhold the outbreak from the community but rather to avoid false info regarding medical info of our members,” he explained in his Facebook post.