SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Late last week, the Arkansas Department of Health released its list of churches that have members who’ve been infected by COVID-19. The information included a significant number of Northwest Arkansas churches.
Churches in Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, Siloam Springs and Huntsville all reported positive cases, bringing the total for Northwest Arkansas to 12 places of worship. Fort Smith also reported a case.
“Someone visited [the church] during their infectious period, usually,” said Meg Mirivel, a spokesperson for ADH, explaining how a church came to be listed.
Churches provide a space where the virus can easily spread, Mirivel said. She stopped short of calling them “hotspots,” but acknowledged they can be problematic if guidelines aren’t followed.
“They’re indoors, people are singing, there’s speaking,” Mirivel said. “If you’re not socially distanced, that would be a risk.”
Cross Church’s Springdale campus was listed, but a Rogers campus churchgoer was the lone known infection, said Brian Dunaway, the church’s communications director.
“[They] let us know that they were there Sunday, the Sunday prior to being tested,” Dunaway said. “Then we took that information and reported it to the Arkansas Department of Health.”
Mirivel said the ADH will update its list to reflect a correction on the location.
Little Flock Primitive Baptist Church is also listed, but an email sent from a man claiming to be the pastor expressed confusion.
“None of our members have reported being tested as positive for this virus,” Carl Staten wrote in the email sent to KNWA/Fox 24 on June 27. “This is surprising and troubling to see our church listed here, especially as no one in the church was questioned or contacted concerning this.”
Mirivel said some church administrators being unaware of a particular congregant’s positive infection can be attributed to a “lag” in communication.
“Depending on when we became aware of that, there may be a lag time between reaching out to the church,” Mirivel said. “We do try to work with the church.”
The advice for people of faith is simple, Mirivel said: follow the guidelines, and worship responsibly.
“The advice is whether your place of worship is on this list or not is to make sure you’re following the guidelines that we’ve put out,” Mirivel said. “Wear your mask, social distancing.”