A pastor from the US state of Tennessee has said he regrets not making masks mandatory for congregants after a large-scale outbreak of Covid-19 rocked his church last month,
Following an extended period of closure, Westmore Church of God reopened on 31st May and held services for weeks without any issues. The church also put in place a plethora of measures to keep their flock safe including social distancing, checking temperatures on entry and even designating separate areas for members at high risk of infection.
Unfortunately, less than a month later and following a regional worship gathering, Covid-19 struck hard. The church's pastor, Kevin Page, became unwell, along with a number of Westmore's members. A fortnight later, he admitted to a local radio station that he wish he'd done things a little differently and ordered all churchgoers to wear masks. "The thing that I would have done differently is really stress that," he said.
With that being said, Page insisted that the church took the health precautions very seriously. "People were able to walk from their car to a seat without even having to touch a door. We didn't pass offering pouches," he said. "We were not being casual." It was the optional mask-wearing that caught the church out, he said, noting that he believes the infection may have been spread by the church's worship team.
"It's nobody's fault. In fact, that morning, as we did every week, temperatures were taken before choir members would go to the stage, and somehow it slipped in on us," he explained. "I have to take responsibility for that."
He added: "We had strong standards in place, but we didn't take that serious enough to say, 'OK, let's elevate this to really say that a mask is something you've really got to take seriously.'"
Page said he was unsure of the precise number of infections that originated directly from his church services.
"I do not know the exact number," he explained. "I don't even know. I wouldn't even know within a range. I do know that it is way too many. And we've got to live and learn from it. And so we gave up on keeping a count."
He added: "I do regret that I can't give you an exact number. I would want to own that. We do know that it hit us hard and that it was way too many people."
The church has now moved all services online until at least 19th July.