By Janelle Griffith
Nearly three dozen people who attended a recent children’s event at a church in Arkansas have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to church officials.
Donald Shipp, a deacon at First Assembly of God church in Greers Ferry, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 34 people who attended the event in early March at the Cleburne County church had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that an unknown number of others were awaiting test results.
Danyelle McNeill, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said a number of coronavirus cases have been associated with a church in Cleburne County, which she did not identify.
“We are still investigating newly reported cases and can’t definitively say they are all connected to one church,” McNeill told NBC News on Thursday. “This is a cluster within a larger outbreak in that area of the state.”
There were at least 310 reported coronavirus cases and two deaths in Arkansas as of Thursday morning.
Mark Palenske, a pastor at the church, said in a lengthy Facebook post late last week that he and his wife, Dena, were among those to test positive for COVID-19.
He said that when such a virus spreads on the other side of the world, “your first inclination is to assume that time and distance are on your side.”
But “that false assumption” recently caught up with him and his wife, he said.
The couple and dozens of others from their church initially could not get tested, according to Palenske.
“One local doctor had a very small number of commercial tests and the rest is history, I suppose,” he wrote.