Three members of churches in California and Georgia are dead after contracting COVID-19, and all three may have acquired the virus at their respective houses of worship.
Elizabeth Eugenia Wells, 65, passed away March 18 and was a member of the Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville, Ga., a congregation where at least three other members have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In California, two members of Faith Presbyterian Church in Sacramento also died after contracting the coronavirus. They are among five members who tested positive.
Both congregations – like many churches nationwide – are now closed to in-person meetings.
“On March 12, Faith Presbyterian Church staff discovered that a small number of church members were displaying symptoms potentially associated with COVID-19,” the Sacramento church said in a statement. “That evening, the church leadership met and made the immediate decision to close the church facility ... to prevent spread of the virus in our congregation and community.”
The deceased members are Don Sperling, 85, and Gayle Alexis. Her age was not released, although the Sacramento Bee reported she was more than 70.
“We don’t grieve for Gayle or for Don because we know that for them they are experiencing the peace that comes from Christ,” First Presbyterian Church Pastor Jeff Chapman said in a video.
The COVID-19 case at the Georgia church dates back to early March – long before congregations nationwide were shutting their doors. All four members of the church who contracted the coronavirus attended services on March 1. Wells was one of them. She began feeling ill after singing in the choir that day.
“My mom was and always has been about helping others – about trying to bring God to others,” her daughter, Hilary New, told the Journal-Constitution. “It was never about my mom. My mom didn’t think of herself first.”
New urged the public to take COVID-19 seriously.
“To say that it couldn’t happen to you is one of the biggest mistakes people can make,” New said. “Always take precautions. Please, if you don’t have to get out, don’t.”
Photo courtesy: NeOnbrand/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.