Copperas Cove pastor speaks after five members of church test positive for COVID-19
By LYNETTE SOWELL
At least five members of a Copperas Cove church have tested positive for COVID-19, after an out-of-town guest pastor’s visit July 27-29.
Victory Baptist Church held a series of special services July 27-29, during which Pastor Marvin Smith III of Harvest Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, Iowa, had come to Copperas Cove after unknowingly being exposed to a church member in Iowa who tested positive while Smith was in Texas. Harvest Baptist Church announced on its social media page on July 29 about the church member testing positive. It is unclear how many in the Iowa congregation were confirmed positive, but Smith was tested after returning to Iowa.
Victory Baptist’s pastor, Erick Knight, said that there have been about 20 others at Victory Baptist who said they were also symptomatic.
Knight explained on Wednesday that he’s been contacting church members and families and checking on them, and that’s how he has learned of other members who’ve been symptomatic. It is not known how many others have tested positive.
“We put information out for our people to keep them updated…we wanted people to understand why we weren’t having church,” Knight said of his announcement on the church’s social media page.
So far, those who have tested positive are “doing well,” Knight said, although some have had more severe symptoms than others. Yet, not all those with symptoms have recently been at church, Knight stated.
“Some of the 20 (symptomatic) people are from our congregation but haven’t even been to a service in several months.”
Knight defended holding in-person meetings, and stated they have gone “above and beyond” the governor’s directives.
“All the staff, we wear masks. I wear a mask right up until I get to the pulpit. We don’t have songbooks or pass any plates. We have sanitization stations set up.”
Before the pandemic began to reach Texas, Knight said the church ran attendance of several hundred, and when the governor ordered businesses to close, the church followed suit and began live streaming services. After the governor permitted businesses to reopen, the church has been holding a “hybrid” service, meaning it would allow limited attendance and also have a live online option.
“We were at over 300 people before all this hit, and we’re running maybe a third of that, and it’s spread out. For example, we have different services for elderly,” Knight said. “We do constant cleaning before and after each service, and deep cleaning multiple times during the week. We spread it out. The church Is big, all the rows are six feet apart. We offer it so people can come. We probably had 70 people in the whole building (last service).”
Knight said that it is yet to be determined when they will begin holding in-person services at the church again.
“Up to this point, we’ve had zero issues. We had something hit, so we took a step back, and will reevaluate eventually.”
Knight took issue with other news reports depicting public gatherings such as a female basketball coach walking into a full auditorium, patting people on the back, taking off her hat and putting it on someone else.
“Everyone was raving over this. But we’re wearing masks and gloves and social distancing. Nobody’s complaining about Rose’s Café being open and being able to eat at their favorite restaurant.
“We’re for truth. We’re not afraid of truth. We just want people to represent truth without spinning truth. From the nation’s leaders to church leaders to business leaders, leaders are in the difficult position of trying to decide what’s best for people and what the government asks us to do. If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re not feeling well and you’re unsure, stay home.
But if you come to church, social distancing and sanitation.”
Knight said the church has a food pantry full of food and they’re still distributing groceries to those in need.
“We’re trying to find ways to be a help to our people and our community while at the exact same time honoring what our leaders in our nation and state have told us. Good leaders are trying to balance it properly.”
Cases climb in Coryell county, first case at county jail
As of Monday a total of 198 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Copperas Cove and 145 of the cases were active.
On Wednesday afternoon, Coryell County updated its COVID-19 tracker with the total of cases of 388, with 291 of them being active cases, and 93 recoveries. There are four fatalities, with the 4th a Copperas Cove resident in his 80s who was listed as deceased as of July 9, but was not added to the report from the state until Monday, Aug. 3. The cumulative cases have increased by 22 during the first week of August.
On Tuesday, Coryell County had its first positive test for COVID-19 in the Coryell County Jail.
In a press release issued by the Coryell County Office of Emergency Management and County Judge Roger Miller, announced that at 5:07 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, Judge Miller received notice of an inmate in the Coryell County Jail who tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the press release the inmate had recently been transferred from Milam County Jail and is currently in an isolation cell. Five other inmates were tested, with all having negative results.
Coryell County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Harrell along with Coryell Health coordinated the testing of 100 percent of the inmates housed at the jail, and testing protocols are being developed to test all deputies, jailers, and office staff. Testing of the inmates began around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Chief Deputy Rob Atkins stated that the inmate had been booked into the jail on Thursday, July 30, and was later tested with jail officials receiving notification on Tuesday.
“The crews have been cleaning and disinfecting all areas of the jail, from floor to ceiling, multiple times each day since the beginning of the outbreak,” said Coryell County Sheriff Scott Williams. Jail staff have been screening inmates for COIVD-19 as well to include temperature checks and a questionnaire as part of the booking process. Any subsequent positive cases from the jail or the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office will be reported to the extent allowed under HIPAA protections, the press release stated.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were a total of 459,887 positive confirmed cases in Texas, up 8,706 new cases. Recoveries stand at 315,652, with an estimated 136,738 active cases statewide and 7,497 fatalities. The seven-day testing positivity rate has jumped up to 15.58 percent statewide, with hospitalizations down to 8,455 statewide. In the local hospital region, there are 69 patients with lab-confirmed positive COVID-19, which includes hospitals in Bell and Coryell Counties.