An Arkansas church, the First Assembly of God Church in Greers Ferry has reported that some 34 members among its staff and congregation are infected with Covid-19.
Pastor Mark Palenske, who is recovering from the virus along with his wife, Dena, said the virus should not be underestimated.
“There was very little in my ministry training that covered the full extent of what our church family has been dealing with in the last few weeks,” he explained.
“The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously. An act of wisdom and moderation on your part can be the blessing that preserves another person’s health,” the pastor shared on Facebook.
Palenske said his wife was taken to the hospital for further treatment after suffering a “seizure”.
“This virus is highly contagious and is no respecter of persons.”
“This virus is highly contagious and is no respecter of persons,” he added. “It seems to pick its victim at random, so it’s best to keep a close eye on hygiene protocols as much as possible.”
Church deacon Donald Shipp told the Arkansas Democratic Gazette that 31 of those infected are on staff or members of the First Assemblies. The other three include two evangelists who led a recent children’s ministry event and a child who was visiting.
All 34 infected were present at the children’s event. “The virus clearly made its way through a special children’s ministry weekend at our church,” admitted Pastor Palenske.
Palenske also shared a message of faith and hope with his Facebook followers, urging the church community to care for each other in this uncertain time.
“Respect and compassion for the people around us must dominate our self-discipline,” he wrote. “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
First dead in the church
William “Bill” Barton, 91, a member of the church became the first infected person to die on Tuesday yesterday.
State and local government officials confirmed that the 91-year-old man died at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the Conway Regional Medical Center and was the second coronavirus fatality in the state, according to the Arkansas Democratic Gazette.
While the church has not yet published a formal statement on Barton’s death, member Gracie Campbell confirmed with the Gazette that Barton had died and that he was a greeter in the church.
Barton’s death comes just days after the church’s pastor, Mark Palenske, who is recovering from the virus along with his wife Dena, warned others not to underestimate how dangerous the virus is and to treat it with “wisdom and restraint”.
Campbell, who confirmed Barton’s death, told the Gazette earlier that she and her husband, Chuck, also have been ill and are currently among those awaiting test results.
The church is responsible for propagation in the County
Of the more than 200 cases of coronavirus in Arkansas, officials revealed Tuesday that 11 are children.
Officials say the Greers Ferry outbreak is responsible for spreading the disease in the relatively small Cleburne County, which has a population of 25,000. The county now has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the state.
“It appears that, from what I know at this time, most of the cases we have in our county” are related to the Greers Ferry church, said Cleburne County Judge Jerry Holmes.
So far, Arkansas has reported more than 230 cases of COVID-19, with two deaths. The global number of confirmed cases is close to 500,000.