Lewis County: “uncontained cluster” of COVID-19 cases traced back to church

WWNY Lewis County: “uncontained cluster” of COVID-19 cases traced back to church

LOWVILLE, N.Y. (WWNY) - “Uncontained.” That’s how Lewis County officials are describing the cluster of COVID-19 cases that can be traced back to an October 11 baptism at the Apostolic Christian Church in the town of New Bremen.

Officials said Friday there are now 23 cases connected to the event and another 26 people are showing symptoms, but their test results haven’t come back yet.

There are 252 people in quarantine in connection with the baptism.

Officials called the cluster of cases “uncontained” because the county has been unable to identify and isolate all of the people who were at the church. In addition, officials confirmed there are other positive cases from the gathering that are being counted in other counties.

Authorities said there were people who came to the church from outside New York. They said the people traveled to the region from states on New York’s travel advisory list and broke state rules by not quarantining for 2 weeks.

Only some were wearing masks, officials said. It’s unclear if any of those visitors were infected with the coronavirus.

Church Elder Duane Farney told 7 News he saw everyone in the church wearing masks during the baptism and the out-of-state visitors were from Ohio and Connecticut, which were not on New York’s travel advisory list at that time. Ohio was added to the state’s travel advisory list on October 13. The baptism was on October 11.

Farney estimated that 50 to 90 people attended the baptism.

“We have nothing to hide,” said Farney. “We did everything we could and respected local, state and federal guidelines to the best of our ability.”

He said all church services have been canceled until further notice.

Meanwhile, county officials said the church had no sign-in sheet, which is why contact tracing has been difficult.

On Friday, they urged all businesses in the area to adopt a sign-in policy after the county had to issue exposure advisories for 2 eateries in the county.

“Our actions in the next 48 hours as a community are going to make a big difference. Containing this cluster is going to be very important because we have a very small population. You might have seen the micro-clusters on the governor’s press conferences. Those are calculated based on population density and based on positivity rate," said Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche.

Officials said they have received 1,200 test kits from the state and that an additional drive-thru testing site will be offered Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Lewis County General Hospital.

All patients requesting testing must be at least 8 years of age and will be asked to provide their name, date of birth, physical address, email address, and a phone number to allow for contact tracing and result follow-up.

As of Friday, 2 people in the county were hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Lewis County General Hospital said it has limited capacity, but it’s capable of converting single bed hospital rooms into doubles if the need arises.

It can also create 12 isolation rooms.

The hospital said it has 90 to 120 days worth of PPE, or personal protective equipment.

“If we don’t contain this, we will challenge the resources of our community in a way that we will begin to experience what some of the southern hospitals in New York state experienced early in the pandemic,” said Gerry Cayer, Lewis County Health System.

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