Health officials issue alert after 10 people with COVID-19 among hundreds to attend funerals in Chatham County


PITTSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Health officials issued an alert after multiple people had COVID-19 while attending two gatherings in Chatham County last week.

Michael Zelek, Chatham County’s Interim Public Health Director, said 10 people tested positive for COVID-19 after attending two funeral services. Zelek said they had the virus during the services and may have exposed others.

“We understood, through our case investigation, that they were potentially infectious while they were in attendance,” Zelek said.

He added that more than 200 people attended a funeral at Emmaus Baptist Church in Pittsboro on July 27.

The church’s pastor declined to comment.

However, Zelek said face coverings were required during the indoor service and is hopeful that helped contain the virus’ spread.

“The church where the funeral service was held had some pretty robust public health measures in place. Face coverings. They even handed out face coverings for those who didn’t have them. Distancing between the seats,” he said.

Days before, roughly 70 to 100 people attended a memorial service for the same individual on July 25 at Bonlee Recreational Park, Zelek said.

“We understand that there may have been potential for not quite as many masks being worn and potentially more close contact,” Zelek said.

Zelek said he couldn’t comment if anyone was symptomatic at either service.

However, he said there have been cases in Chatham County and statewide where people have COVID-19 symptoms but attribute it to something else.

“They may go about their businesses thinking it’s not COVID-19, and then later decide to get tested. In some cases it comes back positive,” he said.

Given the number of people in attendance, Zelek said it isn’t possible to reach everyone individually to determine if the virus spread at the services.

“This is an important reminder that COVID-19 is still present in our community and that precautions are important to be taken,” he said.

Zelek said anyone who attended either or both of these events should monitor for coronavirus symptoms and practice social distancing.

If someone was in close contact with a person who tested positive, health officials said they should quarantine at home for at least 14 days. Anyone who does feel sick, even if symptoms are mild, is encouraged to stay home except to seek medical care and consider getting tested.

Information about COVID-19 testing, including a list of COVID-19 testing sites in Chatham County, can be found on the county’s site. Anyone with additional questions can call the public health department at 919-742-5641.

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