Update: 28 cases now reported in Greenbrier County outbreak
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says a coronavirus outbreak at a church has grown to 28 cases.
The outbreak that occurred last week at the Graystone Baptist Church in Lewisburg has led to additional available testing for the public in Greenbrier County.
Justice says the National Guard conducted decontamination efforts at the church Sunday.
The church says the source of the outbreak is unknown. The church has closed for two weeks and canceled Sunday services.
In a statement, the church said it adhered to mandated precautions, including social distancing and the availability of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to churchgoers. Previous services also had been made available for online viewing.
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has identified five outbreaks of COVID-19 in churches across the state, a news release said on Saturday.
The most recent outbreak has been identified in Greenbrier County, where a church has at least 17 confirmed cases. Governor Jim Justice has ordered the West Virginia National Guard, the Greenbrier County Health Department, and the DHHR to respond to this outbreak. A contact investigation is underway, and the church is cooperating with the county health department.
The National Guard will be on site on Sunday to begin cleaning the church. The building will be closed for 14 days while being decontaminated.
“I want to strongly encourage all West Virginians, especially when in church settings, to follow the guidelines and use every other pew, maintain social distancing, and please wear masks,” Gov. Justice said. “A lot of the attendance at our churches are those that are elderly and at higher risk, so we are cautioning everyone to strictly follow our guidelines. As I have said many times, we will have stormy seas before we get a vaccine, so it is imperative that we strictly follow the guidelines or the seas will only get rougher.”
There will be another two days of free testing in Greenbrier County on Sunday and Monday per Justice's orders.
“I encourage anyone that has any level of concern to come and be tested,” Gov. Justice added.
“There are several key lessons to be learned from these outbreaks. Practicing good prevention measures do make a difference, such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart and using good hygiene,” said Dr. Cathy Slemp, State Health Officer and Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Out of state travel can be a risk and precautions should be taken upon return to West Virginia. Finally, please stay home from work or other community events if you are not feeling well.”
The other counties where outbreaks have been identified are Boone, Hampshire, Jefferson, and Marshall counties. To protect the identities of those afflicted, a DHHR news release said the names of churches with outbreaks will not be released at this time.