by Andrea Klick
The health department estimates more than 300 people may have been exposed to COVID-19 between July 19-24 at Old Paths Baptist Church and learned about the connections from the 30 confirmed coronavirus cases through its contact tracing process, said Kayla Parker, the health department’s communications coordinator.
Robert Alexander, the church’s pastor, said he has worked with the health department since learning about the first positive coronavirus case to inform his community about the outbreak and testing resources. Church services have been moved online indefinitely and all facilities are being disinfected, Alexander said.
When the church opened to hold twice-weekly services and a day camp for middle and high school-aged students, Alexander said the church followed all guidelines.
He said they had people wear masks, spread the congregation out across the first and second floor and encouraged older members at greater risk to stay home. But a video livestreamed on July 19 by the YouTube channel “Old Paths Baptist Church, Bob Alexander” shows a crowded church service with no room for social distancing. Some of the congregation can be seen wearing masks, but others aren’t.
Alexander could not be reached later Friday for comment about the video. Alexander earlier said about 160 people attended the services and around 60 attended the day camp.
Jackson County currently allows churches to hold in-person services at 50% capacity.
“We did everything that we could,” he said. “We followed all the guidelines as best we could... We’re no different than any of the other churches out there.”
Parker said the health department encourages anyone who went to the church to quarantine and sign up for testing at a community event, which are listed on the county health department website.
The health department announced a second potential cluster at the Loyal Order of the Moose #2414 in Independence, where there have been five confirmed COVID-19 cases and officials estimated at least 30 may have been infected.