JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Clays Mill Baptist Church has suspended in-person services after a group of members tested positive for COVID-19, according to senior pastor Jeff Fugate.
Fugate tells LEX18 that the church was opened to 'staff and families' on May 10th.
At that time, he said he asked staff to help with maintaining social distancing for the first in-person service. He said he also went through the CDC guidelines and explained what they needed to do.
According to Fugate, the rows of chairs were moved so that members of the congregation could only sit in what would have typically been every other row. He also said the aisles were expanded.
On May 17th, Fugate said the church was opened to the public for services. He said that there were about 100 people at the first service and some, but not all, congregants wore masks.
According to Fugate, he learned on May 24th, after another Sunday of in-person services, that a few members of his congregation tested positive for COVID-19.
The following Tuesday, he heard about two more positive cases.
Now, Fugate said he believes the number of positive cases has reached 17 members.
He said that the members he has talked to have reported they are doing well. He said the majority have no symptoms at all, some have symptoms for a day or two and others have said it is like having the flu.
After learning about the four positive cases, Fugate said he canceled all in-person services and decided to go back to online services only.
"I keep saying that I want my folks to be healthy and safe and I'm glad we're able to use online, and we'll use that until it is safe to assemble again," Fugate said in a Zoom interview with LEX18.
Fugate said it's unclear where the congregants contracted the virus, and that he likely would not have done anything differently.
"I don't know anything I would do different," Fugate said. "I don't know that folks got the virus at church. I don't know anything different to do if I did. I want our folks to be healthy and until we figure out how we can assemble and folks not be in danger, we'll just keep doing online until we can figure it out."
Fugate said he plans to hold in-person services again starting on June 21st. Instead of meeting inside the building, the congregation would meet under a tent in the parking lot outside.
He said anyone who is at risk or concerned for their safety can watch the service online or listen through their radios in the parking lot.
Fugate joined Attorney General Daniel Cameron back in April when Cameron threatened to sue Governor Andy Beshear for his order that put a stop on in-person services at churches.