Georgia Church Closes 2 Weeks After Reopening As Families Contract Coronavirus, Gov. Kemp Slammed For Doctoring The Stats

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Written by Ann Brown
Georgia
A church in Georgia closed two weeks after reopening when families came down with coronavirus. Gov. Kemp has been slammed for doctoring covid-19 stats. A service inside the Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold, Georgia. Facebook/Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle

Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Georgia thought it had the go-ahead to reopen. After all, Gov. Brian Kemp had lifted coronavirus restrictions and re-opened the state. Now the independent Baptist church, led by Pastor Justin Gazaway in Ringgold, Georgia, has shut down again after families in the congregation contracted covid-19, The Christian Post reported.

Catoosa Baptist Church restarted in-person services on April 26. However, it decided to suspend “in-person worship services for the foreseeable future” on May 11 after learning several families had contracted the virus, church representative Joan Lewis said.

“Our hearts are heavy as some of our families are dealing with the effects of the covid-19 virus, and we ask for your prayers for each of them as they follow the prescribed protocol and recuperate at home,” the church said in a statement.

“Though we feel very confident of the safe environment we are able to offer in our facilities, the decision was made…that we would discontinue all in-person services again until further notice in an effort of extreme caution for the safety and well-being of our families.” 

Just 25 percent of congregants had participated in in-person worship services after the chuch reopened, according to the church.

“Based on the current data that was shared and the low volume of cases in our area at the time, and in an effort to offer our families both options of either attending in-person services or streaming online, we resumed services in the Tabernacle a couple of weeks ago. While approximately a fourth of our congregation chose to attend the in-person services, our other families chose to remain at home and continue enjoying our streaming services,” the church said.

Officials pointed out that “all modes of social distancing were practiced and followed by the families attending.”

“Seating was marked to only permit sitting within the six-foot guidelines, all doors were open to allow access without the touching of doors, and attendees were asked to enter in a social distancing manner and were dismissed in a formal manner as well to ensure that the social distancing measures were adhered by all,” the church said.

Kemp ignored many health experts who said it was too early to reopen the U.S. On April 20, Kemp announced plans to begin reopening some businesses across the state starting April 24 with specific guidelines.

Georgia businesses approved to reopen first included fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barber shops, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, their respective schools and massage therapists.

Theaters, private social clubs, and dine-in services at restaurants were allowed to reopen on April 27 with specific social distancing guidelines and sanitation mandates.

Now, Kemp’s administration has been accused of doctoring coronavirus health statistics for his state in an effort to reopen early, The Washington Post reported.

Recently Georgia’s Department of Public Health released a graph demonstrating “a dramatic, steady decline in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in the state’s five most affected counties, from a peak on April 28, just before the state’s restrictions were eased, to near-zero two weeks later,” the Post reported.

However, the dates on the chart showed a “curious ordering” that showed dates out of oder and some dates skipped. On the cart, April 30 was followed by May 4; May 5 was followed by May 2, which was followed by May 7 — which in turn was followed by April 26. By rearranging the dates, the chart appears to show a decline in covid-19 cases. It was all an illusion, the Post reported.

Now, Kemp’s office has apologized for what state Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat, called a “cuckoo” presentation of data. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted this was not the first “cuckoo” presentation of coronavirus data. In fact, it was the third such “error” in as many weeks involving sloppy counting of cases, deaths, and other measures tracking covid-19 in Georgia. 

Another official state chart shows cases decreasing dramatically over 14 days, with an asterisk explaining that “confirmed cases over the last 14 days may not be accounted for due to illnesses yet to be reported or test results may still be pending.”

Kemp’s press secretary, apologizing for the altered graph, said officials had thought it “would be helpful.”        

This decision and deception only put more Black lives in danger. While Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle does not have a majority of Black congregants, Georgia is teeming with Black churches, many of them mega-churches. The state ranks third behind California and Texas for megachurches — those with more than 2,000 attendees on average, The Atlanta-Journal Consitution reported. Just in Atlanta there are more than a half dozen mega-churches with 5,000-or-more congregants.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was adamant in her reluctance to reopen the city and urged businesses to ignore Kemp’s lifting of restrictions.

Black residents of Georgia are more likely to get infected as the state reopens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. 

A new report by the CDC shows that more than “four-fifths of hospitalized coronavirus patients in the study were Black (and) of the 297 patients in the study whose race and ethnicity were known, 83.2 percent were Black,” The New York Times reported.

“That is a very high rate of infections,” said Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, a cancer surgeon and the president of Howard University who was not involved in the C.D.C. report. 

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“A lot of it may come from the fact that African-Americans are essential employees in our system,” he said, adding, “Everything from bus drivers to health care workers and cleaning services, they are on the front line, and therefore are far more likely to be exposed.”

The CDC study analyzed 305 cases of laboratory-confirmed coronavirus in patients who were admitted to eight Georgia hospitals in March. It found that 26.2 percent of patients were not believed to have pre conditions associated with higher risk for severe diseases.

This, the study’s authors say, shows that Georgia’s Black population is especially vulnerable.

“Given the overrepresentation of Black patients within this hospitalized cohort, it is important for public health officials to ensure that prevention activities prioritize communities and racial/ethnic groups most affected by covid-19,” the report stressed.