Warren Throckmorton, a Psychology Professor from Grove City College, has noticed an increase in positive coronavirus cases in Georgia as houses of worship conduct in-person services.
Throckmorton, who has been tracking the spread of COVID-19 in churches across the U.S., asked the Georgia Department of Public Health for insight on a number of recent church-related outbreaks.
As of Aug. 18, public information representative Nancy Nydam told Throckmorton, “there have been 49 COVID-19 church/place of worship outbreak investigations reported to DPH.”
In light of the investigations, Nydam stated that there have been 517 reported cases as well as 91 hospitalizations and 15 deaths.
As of the time of this writing, Georgia has reported 241,677 cases, 4,794 deaths and 927 recoveries. The fatality rate is at 2 percent.
While Throckmorton says that outbreaks in Georgia-based churches have been a “small fraction”, he cautioned that new cases “may be accelerating.”
A report by the Georgia Department of Public Health found that out of the 110 outbreaks in Georgia between August 6 and August 12, 8 churches were among the locations where outbreaks occurred.
“These outbreaks are occurring in settings where people are physically congregating and underscore the need for distancing and source control,” the report said.
“As churches have come together in person, outbreaks have increased,” Throckmorton noted.” The low total numbers may not be due to safety in church as much as because many churches were meeting online until recently.”
Regarding religious gatherings across the U.S., Throckmorton counted “268 religious gatherings associated with at least 3,208 cases of COVID-19 and 45 deaths,” as of August 19, 2020.
“My sense is that it is getting harder to keep up with them as churches are beginning to relax their restrictions,” he added.
On August 5, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act that protects churches and businesses from COVID-19 related liabilities, including death.
“Warning: Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death of an individual entering these premises if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises,” the act states.