Oregon coronavirus outbreak linked to one church, authorities say

A church in northeast Oregon has been linked to the state’s largest single coronavirus outbreak to date, authorities confirmed, pushing daily counts to reach new records.

The outbreak at Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church in Union County’s Island City was linked to at least 236 COVID-19 cases, the deputy state epidemiologist, Tom Jeanne, confirmed.

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The Lighthouse Pentecostal Church stands in Union County, Ore., date not known. A COVID-19 outbreak in Union County was reported this week. (Ronald Bond/The Observer via AP)

The Lighthouse Pentecostal Church stands in Union County, Ore., date not known. A COVID-19 outbreak in Union County was reported this week. (Ronald Bond/The Observer via AP)

The Oregon Health Authority reported 278 new statewide cases on Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 6,098. OHA also announced two new deaths, with the state’s death toll at 182.

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According to recent reports, the outbreak accounts for 47 percent of 462 cases reported statewide since Monday. Jeanne reported five hospitalizations tied to the virus outbreak at the church.

“We have tested the majority of the congregation at the church in Union County,” Jeanne said. “At this point we hope there will not be a lot more (cases), but that is what contact tracing, quarantine and follow up will be important for.”

The county worked with the church to host a testing clinic, according to Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for infectious diseases and immunizations at the Health Authority Public Health Division. He said 365 people in the county were tested over the weekend, 66 percent of tests came back positive.

The Center for Human Development [CHD] reported 119 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total county case count to 240.

"A number of cases have been associated with the Lighthouse Pentecostal church which continues to be very responsive and is taking appropriate steps to ensure the health and safety of their congregation," said Carrie Brogoitti, Public Health Administrator CHD.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that a deleted video from the church’s Facebook page showed “hundreds of worshipers singing, dancing, and jumping around” at a May 24 service despite the governor’s orders restricting gatherings.

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Faith leaders did not respond to the Associated Press and The Oregonian/OregonLive when asked about the outbreak.

One newspaper, La Grande Observer, reported the church recently held a wedding and graduation ceremony with more than 100 attendees each.