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At Oregon Church That Sued Over COVID Limits, an Outbreak

Peoples Church in Salem, Ore. to host 3 services on Sunday
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2021 9:06 AM CDT

(Newser) – At least 74 COVID-19 cases are associated with a 3,700-member church in Salem, Ore., that is planning three in-person Mother's Day services on Sunday regardless. The Oregon Health Authority began investigating the outbreak at Peoples Church two days after Easter Sunday, when the church hosted three indoor services, per the Washington Post. But it only notified the public of what is now "the state's eighth-largest active workplace outbreak" on Wednesday, the Salem Statesman Journal reports. In-person services have continued though Pastor Scott Erickson and his wife were hospitalized with COVID-19 in mid-April. The health authority said the most recent case linked to the church was reported April 29. A church rep says "we are concerned about the COVID-19 surge in Oregon" which "has impacted our entire region, including our church family" but adds in-person services will continue.

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Marion County churches were limited to 25% normal occupancy, up to a maximum of 150 people, until April 30 when that maximum was reduced to 100 people. Masks and physical distancing have long been required. But photos from church services show "neither masks nor physical distancing," per the Statesman Journal. The daughter of two attendees with COVID-19 says she demanded the church stop in-person services, citing its "refusal to follow CDC guidelines," but the church claimed its cases were linked to a larger increase across the state. It also said it was encouraging the use of masks and social distancing. The church, part of the Assemblies of God, was one of 10 to sue last year over Gov. Kate Brown's COVID-19 restrictions, which limited all gatherings to 25 people. With virtual services, "you miss the opportunity to feel God's presence," the Post quotes Erickson as saying at the time. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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