Health officials warn of large gatherings after hundreds exposed to COVID-19 at 2 churches

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JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. — Large gatherings continue to be a source of positive coronavirus cases in Jackson County.

In July alone, the Jackson County Health Department has learned of 42 new COVID-19 tests connected to large gatherings at churches or parties.

It’s caused hundreds of other people to be potentially exposed. ​Contact tracers have been trying to keep up with the growing number of cases but are becoming overwhelmed. 

Kayla Parker, communications coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department, warns against these large gatherings even if you do follow health guidelines because of the high risk of infection. 

“Anywhere that there’s large gatherings there is a higher risk, and we want people to know that when they decide to go into the situations, they’re putting others at risk and it can be difficult,” Parker said. “We really encourage small gatherings at this time, and especially not over 100 people if it all possible.”

The largest cluster of positive cases was seen at Old Paths Baptist Church. The Independence church held a service on July 19 that resulted in 30 positive cases and over 300 people possibly exposed.

A visitor at Courageous Life Church’s Independence campus also tested positive. However, lead pastor Brad Oyler said they’ve rigorously followed state health guidelines since the beginning of the pandemic. They believe because they have been so thorough, it has kept their positive cases to one.

“We get the information, we take that information and we do the best we can with it. So we believe that we have lessened the spread of it going even further,” said Kim Oyler, Brad Oyler’s wife.

Courageous Life Church has remained closed since news of the positive case and has switched to online services. 

“We actually shut down our building, so last Sunday we did not have in-person service, only online services, and then Sunday we are also having online services again because I want to keep everybody safe,” Kim Olyer said.

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