Church whose pastor threatened to sue Beshear over banning in-person services has COVID-19 outbreak

The church whose pastor joined Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron in threatening to sue Gov. Andy Beshear in April if the governor didn’t rescind an executive order preventing churches from holding in-person services has had a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Clays Mills Baptist Church, just outside of Nicholasville in Jessamine County, has had 17 parishioners test positive for the virus. The ages of those infected range from children to the elderly, according to the Herald-Leader, the first news outlet to report the story.

The church began in-person services on May 10.

Pastor Jeff Fugate told the newspaper on Friday that he felt “terrible” about the outbreak. “I care more about the health of my people than anyone,” he said.

At least two of the people who have recently tested positive are members of Fugate’s family.

Unlike Clays Mill Baptist, many churches in Central Kentucky have decided to forgo gathering in-person and continue with online-only services.

Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, has warned churches of the potential dangers of shouting and singing around other people, since those actions release a larger amount of virus particles into the air.

“This is a serious disease, and it spreads very easily,” Dr. Stack said.

Beshear’s initial reopening guidelines allowed houses of worship to meet again in-person beginning May 20, if the church could do so safely. On May 8, two federal judges issued rulings upholding a challenge to Beshear’s executive order banning in-person services, opening the door for any church that wished to resume in-person services.

The following day the governor pleaded with churches not to gather in-person before they’re able to take the necessary steps to keep congregants safe.

By Ken Howlett, News Director

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