Covid hits hard at local church
February 19, 2021
The coronavirus does not discriminate on the basis of sex, politics or religion. Cloquet’s Good Hope Church in Cloquet proved that last month, when Covid-19 spread through its members at a remarkable pace.
Pastor Mike Stevens estimated that about one in five members — most of them volunteers — were infected. In total, he estimated about 45 people tested positive for Covid.
“As far as churches go, we’re pretty strict with masking and social distancing. We have ushers seat people at a distance, and we’ve fought the fight with masks,” he said, adding that they have face shields for anyone who can’t wear a mask. “But we had someone serving at all three services over the weekend [Jan. 22-24] who found out they’d been exposed at work on Monday.”
That was after a weekend’s worth of volunteering at the church on Armory Road in Cloquet. A weekend of breathing the same indoor air in the entryway and the sanctuary. It turned out the volunteer was asymptomatic for Covid, but contagious.
“We tried to be as proactive as possible, as open and upfront so people could deal with it,” Stevens said.
Stevens said the church let the entire congregation know right away, mostly via email, and urged people to get tested. The church shut down for two weekends.
Most of the infected were members of the worship team, and in the building for a longer period of time, although at least one person just dropped off some items and left but still tested positive a week or two later.
The time off was good for Stevens and his wife, Tranette, because they both got Covid as well. Stevens said many people — including him — had fairly mild cases. He had a runny nose and a sore throat for a couple of days along with lightheadedness, fatigue and “a little brain fog for about a week” as well as some back pain. “I felt great as long as I didn’t do anything,” he said.
Some people had worse cases, but no one was hospitalized. “I’m thankful we didn’t have any serious cases,” he said, adding that the church had faced a Covid outbreak and shut down in October too, with fewer cases.
Stevens said he thinks the number was particularly high at his church because so many people tested.
“There were a lot of people who wouldn’t have known they were positive, they would have just thought it was a cold,” he said. “It’s interesting, because it affects people so differently. But we want to be conscientious for the few that may be very negatively affected.
“I think it’s gone through a lot of places and people don’t know,” he said. “I think a lot of people get it and don’t know because we’re so used to powering through.”
Stevens said they talked to the health department, but also did their own contact tracing.
Now a second tier of infection has followed, with family members and people who were close to the first round of people infected.
“That’s how these things go. It’s a chain reaction,” Stevens said.