Maui Church with Covid Cluster Cancels Easter Egg Hunt, In-Person Service Continues
By Wendy Osher
The state Department of Health is issuing guidance to a Maui congregation, saying COVID-19 cases linked to the King’s Cathedral church in Kahului, have doubled in the past 10 days.
Health officials say the number of infections now totals more than 50 with those infected ranging in age from 10 to 77 years old. The church reports that there are “33 active cases among the thousands that attend King’s Cathedral and Chapels in Maui County.”
The department reports that transmission has spread from the church to a school and a workplace, and put out a notice yesterday in an attempt to curb any additional “spillover” cases, calling the situation an “imminent health threat.”
“We felt it (was) important to put this out through media, although we don’t typically talk about specific locations,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist at the Department of Health.
“In this case, given the rapid rise in cases that we’ve seen over the past 10 days–we had an initial cluster detected earlier in March which seemed initially to be dying down, but then we saw another uptick in cases–it’s important that we get word out about this so that people are aware and can take measures to protect themselves,” said Dr. Kemble.
“I do want to clarify that we don’t know for sure that this is limited to just the location in Kahului. We have had cases identified across Maui and we do know that membership is large, so we just want to be clear–that’s part of the reason also for this release–is that it may not be limited to just those in the congregation in Kahului,” she said.
Popular Egg Hunt Canceled; In-Person Services Continue with CDC Guidelines
The department is encouraging the church to cancel all upcoming in-person events and conduct only virtual services until the cluster is contained.
While the church has canceled its Easter Egg hunt and postponed its Easter production to a later date, a press release issued yesterday says that as an essential institution, it continues to offer in-person services while abiding by CDC guidelines, in addition to offering drive in and virtual streaming options.
Mayor Michael Victorino said he met with the pastor at King’s Cathedral and was informed that the popular Easter egg hunt, which drawns anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 participants over the Easter weekend, is canceled. The church has also postponed its Easter production, “Indestructible Life” until April 25 and 26.
“Our church from the beginning of COVID has been deeply concerned about the welfare of those who worship with us and therefore have provided opportunity for people to in-person at one of our many venues as well as in the safety of their home through our streaming service and also through our drive-in services where people can participate in worship while being in their car,” according to a statement issued by the church and posted on the congregation’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
“The Cathedral abides by CDC guidelines with congregants wearing masks, pews separated six feet apart, facilities sanitized, and special check-in procedures for children and youth. As an essential institution, we are thankful that during this challenging time, we can continue to be a beacon of faith, hope, and love to the people of Maui County and everywhere our church is planted.”
The church website has three Easter services listed, but also continues to offer virtual and drive-in options that Mayor Victorino says involve physical distancing, wearing of masks and sanitation.
He cautioned the community against stigmatizing the church saying, “Let’s remember we are one community.”
“To say that they weren’t wearing masks or weren’t following the rules is maybe premature; but I can tell you our church and the other churches that I’ve visited really, really are cognizant of wearing masks, physical distancing and good hygiene,” said Maui Mayor Michael Victorino.
“The Department of Health is aware that this is a difficult time to have to hold back on gatherings and celebrations because we are coming into the Easter weekend, which is an important holiday for many of our religious communities–and we recognize that. There are ways to celebrate and worship safely, and that includes virtual gatherings, celebrating with your families at home in your own household bubble, and trying to keep it limited to that kind of celebration,” said Dr. Kemble.
Contact Tracing and Testing; DOH Guidance
State health officials say they are working with the church and its representatives to identify individuals who may have been exposed.
“We have heard some reports of people being told by their work places not to show up to work. We do want to remind people that King’s Cathedral has a very large congregation and not everyone is involved. It’s mostly concern for those who may have attended in-person gatherings and events over the last 14 days,” said Dr. Kemble.
“If you’re at a workplace and wondering what to do, I would encourage you to talk with your employees and find out if they may have actually been at an in-person event of concern. What we’re advising for those who may have attended these events is to go get tested now,” said Dr. Kemble during a afternoon press briefing hosted by Mayor Victorino on Wednesday.
“It’s still an evolving situation. We don’t know exactly who’s been impacted yet; and so if you think there’s any chance you’ve been at an in-person gathering–in particular where people were not consistently wearing masks–then we strongly encourage that you go get tested right away. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go to work if you aren’t having symptoms and you haven’t been around a known case; but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Go get your test and then you can know how you’re doing,” said Dr. Kemble.
Department officials say those who have been identified as being exposed, will be contacted and given guidance on how to properly quarantine.