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COVID-19 slams Arkansas church

by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 3/25/20, 11:31 am

A small church in Cleburne County, Ark., has become a local epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Nearly three dozen people connected to Greers Ferry First Assembly of God have tested positive for the new coronavirus, including Pastor Mark Palenske and his wife, Dena, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The other 80 members of the church are still waiting for test results.

How did this happen? Health officials blame a children’s event the church hosted during the first week of March—before most social distancing measures had taken effect. Some attendees had recently traveled outside of the area, though it’s unclear where. In a post on the church’s Facebook page, Palenske said it took a while to get tested after he and others started showing symptoms of the disease, but church leaders canceled services even before the results came in.

“The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously,” Palenske said in another post. “An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else.”

Dig deeper: Read how churches across the country are adapting to social distancing.

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Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is an assistant editor for WORLD Digital. She is a Patrick Henry College and World Journalism Institute graduate. Rachel resides with her husband in Wheaton, Ill.

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