Health officials in Shasta County, California, have linked a recent spike in Covid-19 cases to popular charismatic church Bethel.
According to officials, 123 of the Covid-19 cases reported in the county over the past fortnight have been linked with the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) - a theological training college run by Bethel Church which enrols thousands of students every year. An additional 80 coronavirus infections have been traced to a rehab centre in the city of Redding, where both the church and school are based.
In an email to a local news outlet called the Redding Record Searchlight, Bethel Church confirmed the reports of an outbreak and announced emergency measures to minimise the chances of further spreading, including moving teaching online and requesting that staff work from home where possible. "A portion of the new cases in Shasta County have been amongst our students and staff, so we are taking swift action under the guidance of Public Health to minimise additional spread," the church said.
Bethel communications director Aaron Tesauro told the outlet that students arriving at the school are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and take a Covid-19 test prior to commencing the academic year. He added that when visiting campus, all students and staff will be required to wear face coverings when they are in rooms where six feet of social distancing isn't possible.
The church also said it was working alongside public health officials to begin a second round of testing for students and staff.