Pastor With Coronavirus Shook Hands, Gave Communion

Rector at historic Washington, DC, church came down with symptoms the following day
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2020 12:10 PM CDT
Pastor With Coronavirus Shook Hands, Gave Communion
An image of Christ Church Georgetown via Wikimedia Commons.   (AgnosticPreachersKid at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA (

Founded in 1817, Christ Church Georgetown has reportedly not canceled services since that century. Until now. Starting March 8, the Washington, DC, church canceled all events indefinitely after a rector at the church was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Anyone who attended the church on Feb. 24 or any time between Feb. 28 and March 3 is being asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, NBC Washington reports. Rev. Timothy Cole participated in church services Feb. 23, the day after returning from a Louisville conference, and then began feeling sick on Feb. 24. He felt better by Feb. 29 and took part in a church retreat the following day. The Washington Post reports that Cole presided over services on March 1 that were attended by 550 people; he shook parishioners' hands and offered communion.

He also participated in a church retreat that day; officials say he had been regularly washing his hands and seemed healthy. But on March 3, he was diagnosed with the flu; by Thursday that had become pneumonia, and on Saturday it was determined to be the coronavirus. He is currently hospitalized in stable condition. "It’s the first, from my understanding, that the church has canceled services in 150 years," a former DC council member who attends the church says. "There is no need to panic," Cole says in a church statement. "Following sensible precautions provided by the CDC will go a long way towards insuring the good health of our community." Mayor Muriel Bowser acknowledged the hardship for congregants, some of whom live in Maryland and Virginia, but said officials don't see the self-quarantine "as a 'nice to,' it's a 'must to.'" (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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