CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It was a week-long of convocation events earlier this month that brought people from across the country to the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte.
The events were also a breeding ground for COVID-19.
On Friday, Mecklenburg County health officials updated the total number of positive cases linked to the church to 181. Of those, 172 people live in Mecklenburg; four in Iredell; four in Gaston; and one positive in Cabarrus counties.
“What I saw was very close contact. In their form of praise it’s like shouting and a lot of fluids. Instrument playing, a lot of saliva comes from the trombones. A lot of hugging and food handling, very close contact without gloves, without masks," said the daughter of someone who attended the convocation events.
Her parent tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the events. We are not naming her due to the parent being a member of the church.
“Anger, not towards my parent because I know how the faith and so much emphasized to believe the direction and order of the leadership," she added.
“Why are you sitting here today?” she was asked.
“Because I care...one. I have people there who I love. I was formally a lifelong member for over 30 years so they are still part of my family and I do have family there," she responded.
“Are you more so surprised the church hasn’t been in front of this?” she was asked.
“Not really because that’s the general teaching. You don’t talk concerning House of Prayer, it’s almost a threatening factor," she replied.
County officials say it was the lack of cooperation from leadership at the beginning that forced an abatement order. The order issued last week prohibited in-person services from being held.
The order was changed Friday after health officials say church leaders agreed to safety protocols such as capacity restrictions, cleaning and providing hand-sanitizing stations.
“The last three or four days, the national leadership has been working with us and have agreed to increase access as well as cooperation," said Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris.
Health officials agreed to ease the restrictions which allow the church to reopen its doors for in-person services.
“We have provided specific guidance on appropriate capacity and increased prevention and safety measures at all of their sites," said Harris. “It seems the transmission from the convocation from the United House of Prayer has slowed. Most of our new cases are secondary transmission at this point.”
Restrictions include a 300 person capacity limit inside the sanctuary of the main location at 2321 Beatties Ford Road.
“The last three or four days, the national leadership has been working with us and have agreed to increase access as well as cooperation," Harris added.