SALEM, Ore. — Oregon health officials say at least 74 people linked to a church in Salem have contracted COVID-19.
The Oregon Health Authority started investigating the outbreak at the Peoples Church on April 6, The Statesman Journal reported. The state did not release information about the outbreak until Wednesday.
The church’s website and Facebook page indicates in-person services and events continue to be held there including Mother’s Day services scheduled for Sunday. Officials at Peoples Church declined to respond to questions from the newspaper or acknowledge their specific outbreak.
"We are concerned about the COVID-19 surge in Oregon. This statewide increase has impacted our entire region, including our church family," church spokesman Brent Kintz said in an email on behalf of church leadership.
Last year, Peoples Church joined nine other Oregon churches in a legal effort to overturn Gov. Kate Brown’s COVID-19 restrictions. The complaint, filed by California-based Pacific Justice Institute, argued that restrictions on churches violate constitutional protections for religious freedom.
According to the church’s Facebook page, Lead Pastor Scott Erickson and his wife, Bonnie, both were hospitalized with COVID-19 last month.
In a video message posted to the church’s Facebook page April 14, Executive Pastor Tom Murray encouraged those who attend in person to physically distance, and stay home if they are ill.
Marion County has been in the "high risk" category for the past several months, with the exception of April 30-May 6, when it was moved to "extreme risk." In both categories, people are required to wear masks and remain 6 feet apart.
The church’s recent Facebook photos of gatherings show neither masks nor physical distancing. Peoples Church is a non-denominational Assemblies of God church.
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