Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle in Ringgold, Georgia, less than 20 miles away from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Houston have indefinitely canceled services after members and leaders tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after reopening.
The news comes as a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that large gatherings pose risk for coronavirus transmission and called on faith-based organizations to work with local health officials about implementing guidelines for modified activities.
The report looked at a rural Arkansas church, where a pastor and wife attended church events in early March. At least 35 of 92 attendees tested positive for the coronavirus, and three people died with additional 26 cases and one death occurring in the community from contact with the church cases.
The report underscores the difficulty believers and faith leaders face as the need for the comfort of in-person worship grows stronger and lawmakers yield to a public growing tired of physical distancing measures.
Church services resumed April 26, just days after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp allowed fitness centers, bowling alleys and salons to reopen.
The day after the churches reopened for in-person worship, Kemp allowed private social clubs and restaurants to reopen under certain restrictions.
The decision for Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle to shut its doors again is a result of several families in the congregation testing positive for the virus, despite the church's caution to space seating six feet apart and to have its doors open to prevent frequent touching of doorknobs.
Around 25% of Catoosa Baptist Tabernacle members attended in-person service while the majority remained home and streamed services, according to the outlet.
Locking its doors for the second time is an act of "extreme caution," according to the church.
"Our hearts are heavy as some of our families are dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 virus, and we ask for your prayers for each of them as they follow the prescribed protocol and recuperate at home," the church said in a formal statement, according to the Christian Post.