A Texas pastor apologizes and blames his own impatience, after he and dozens of parishioners tested positive for COVID-19.
Pastor Ron Arbaugh of the Calvary Chapel of San Antonio said that none of the parishioners tested positive during the government – enforced shutdown.
“People were lonely. They were out of fellowship for all the weeks we were gone, so I said, ‘If you want to hug, it’s ok to do it,” he said in an interview.
The church started an indoor, in-person service right after Texas Governor Greg Abbott opened the state, which led to a surge in hospitalizations and positivity rates including that the members of the church.
On June 24, the pastor started to receive notifications that the members of the church were starting to test positive.
“I went out and did the midweek service that Wednesday night,” he said. “I just received five emails or calls from people who had tested positive.”
Now, the church has at least 50 coronavirus cases, including Arbaugh himself, his wife, another main pastor, and staff members, and their symptoms were minor to nearly asymptomatic.
Arbaugh said the church implemented strict coronavirus-related restrictions when they first opened, but started to loosen the rules in mid-June.
He regrets his earlier decision to allow parishioners to hug each other, and promises to apply stricter social distancing rules before the church reopens.
“I accept full responsibility. I’m the leader of the church,” he said. “If I could have done it all over again, I would have said ‘no hugging.’”
According to the pastor, he believes that most of the victims are 40 and up, and that none have died.
None of the children connected to the church’s school tested positive.
The church is planning to resume services on Sunday, and shall adhere to the governor’s guidelines, which includes requiring parishioners to wear face coverings and to sit every other row to meet social distancing requirements.