JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. — After three churches in Jackson County were warned about potential COVID-19 exposures, one Kansas City church walked 41 Action News through its safety measures in place to keep members safe during in-person services.
The Jackson County Health Department said on Monday that people who attended services or programs at Connection Point Church in Raytown and Lee's Summit and Lifegate Church in Independence may have been exposed to the virus.
We have several new COVID-19 exposure events at Connection Point Church - Raytown, Connection Point Church - Lee’s Summit, and Lifegate Church of Independence. [1/3]— Jackson County Health Department (@JacksonCountyHD) October 26, 2020
After the announcement from the health department, the churches addressed their congregations on social media:
With the threat of COVID-19 not going away, churches who spoke with 41 Action News said they are going above and beyond to keep everyone safe.
"We haven't had type of major outbreak. We have been blessed and have been fortunate," said Nicole Hill, chief operating officer for Sheffield Family Life Center.
Hill said the reason for that has been the virus protocols put in place.
"We try to keep everything as touchless as we can," Hill said.
There are stickers on the floor that shows members which way to enter and exit to limit the exposure to one another.
"We have the one-way in. We don't want our people going in and out the same doors," Hill said.
It's these measures that will keep churches open now and during the holiday season.
"Many of the churches with the larger gathering spaces that are here in like KC or down in Springfield, I imagine they are going to have people that will be calling in saying they want to attend and have a cutoff, " said the Rev. Dr. Steve Rottgers of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri. "Probably doing a lot of Zooming for Christmas Eve."
Hill said even though Sheffield Family Life Center has rules when going to church, they are not not hindering people's connection to their faith.
A spokesperson with Connection Point Church sent 41 Action News this statement about the exposure:
"On Thursday, October 8, we became aware of three positive COVID cases within our staff team. After receiving this information, we immediately took action to stop the spread of the virus and keep our church family and community safe. This meant shifting to online-only worship services using archived footage, canceling all on-campus meetings and activities, and having the entire staff quarantine and work from home. Within the first week of quarantine, we learned about five additional positive cases from this exposure, for a total of eight from our Raytown and Lee’s Summit locations.
After 23 days of quarantine and improved health, we are returning to in-person services and activities this Sunday, November 1, with increased safety measures, including stricter mask policies, blocked off seating to enforce social distancing, health screenings for our staff and volunteers, and self-screening posters at every entrance.
We are encouraged by the flexibility and understanding of our congregation and our community as we’ve navigated the hurdles of COVID-19 over the last few weeks."
Pastor Brian Gallardo with Lifegate Church said people must wear masks when moving around in the church. When sitting down, people can take them off, but he said most members keep them on.
"When we found out when that person tested positive, we had everyone in that small meeting quarantine voluntarily and suspend the in-person services that they were attending for two weeks," Gallardo said in a Monday Facebook video.
He said he has not been contacted by the health department about the exposure.
Kayla Parker with the Jackson County Health Department responded to a request for comment from 41 Action News about why health department officials have not reached out to Gallardo:
"We are still in the process of trying to quickly identify all cases and exposures in this situation to limit the spread and protect the public from further illness. This is an ongoing investigation, and we would be glad to work collaboratively with the church to identify those who may have been exposed. Our primary goal is to alert the public to possible exposure events as soon as possible so people can take appropriate preventative action. This is not a punishment, but rather an alert mechanism to protect people. We will gladly remove organizations from our exposure tab if all potential contacts can be identified and contacted."