County Executive responds to COVID-19 outbreak at New York church

State News

HORSEHEADS, N.Y. (WETM) — More than 40 new cases of the coronavirus have been reported from six counties linked to one New York church.

An investigation into Lighthouse Baptist Church in Horseheads, N.Y. began on Saturday, Sept. 6 according to the Chemung County Executive Chris Moss.

“This is the most cases we’ve had connected to one incident since we started,” Moss said. “A lot of the parishioners already came forward when they saw it on the news. We were able to get them tested and we’re able to conduct the trace investigations to see what close contact they would have had.”

On Sept 8, the county health department closed the church because of the COVID-19 cluster. In efforts to contact trace the congregation, the county issued a subpoena to the church on Sept 12.

“We had a hard time getting information,” Moss said. “We needed to know who the congregation was—that may have visited the church, so we could do the tracing investigation. We weren’t getting that cooperation, so eventually the county attorney worked with the public health board and they issued a subpoena to the church to have them give the list over.”

According to the Chemung County Health Director, Peter Buzzetti, several members of the church who tested positive attended a wedding in another county.

On Sept 17, Moss confirmed with 18 News a 76-year-old man died from the virus. The man did not go to the church but was in contact with an individual who attended Lighthouse Baptist.

Meanwhile, a class at Howard A. Hanlon Elementary in the Odessa-Montour Central School District developed COVID-19 symptoms. The entire class was told not to come back until testing results came back.

According to the Schuyler County Health Director, Deborah Minor, the student’s test came back positive. The health department said the student was “a close contact” of someone who tested positive for the virus on Friday evening and indirectly connected to the Lighthouse Baptist Church cluster.

18 News reached out to the Odessa Montour Central School District for comment but did not hear back.

One senator said the area needs to remain diligent to avoid a bigger jump in cases.

“This just shows that while things are getting better, we aren’t out of this year,” said New York Senator, Tom O’Mara. “We need to remain diligent with wearing our masks and with the social distancing.”

18 News reached out to Lighthouse Baptist Church for comment but have not heard back. Be sure to stick with 18 News for the latest regarding the COVID-19 cluster.

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