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Health officials: ‘Now is not the time’ for United House of Prayer large event

Updated: Jan. 3, 2021 at 8:36 AM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County officials are warning leaders of a local church against hosting large event only a few months after hosting a super spreader event that left 12 dead and more than 200 infected from COVID-19.

[At least 12 deaths, 213 coronavirus cases now linked to Charlotte church event]

Several people could be seen gathering today at The United House of Prayer in Charlotte ahead of a visit by Bishop CM Bailey at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Mecklenburg County officials told WBTV’s Courtney Cole they have told church leadership that this was “not the time for this type of event considering the extent of the pandemic in our community.”

In regards to the most recent events, the public health department released the following statement.

MCPH is aware of the events and have been in conversation with UHOP leadership. We explained that now is not the time for this type of event considering the extent of the pandemic in our community. We have been assured by church leadership that they are implementing all of the necessary precautions and limiting the numbers in the church at any given time.

The county also offered masks and other items to try and make sure people are being safe.

“We are not restricting the events because at this point, we’re not in an outbreak status with the church,” said Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County public health director.

The Mecklenburg County Healthy Department issued a an abatement in October, prohibiting the church from holding public gatherings until November 6th 2020.

Nearly two months later, the county is hoping that this weekend’s events don’t result in more cases like in the past.

“We hope we don’t get to that point again, and they hope that they have their events because they seem to be determined to have the events and I think the bishop is coming but they do it as safe as possible and keep the numbers as small as they can as they move through this weekend,” Harris said.

Reverend Raymond Johnson of Mt. Pisgah Church traveled from South Carolina. He said he’s tried convincing church leaders and the bishop to not hold these large events.

“Just do the right things, let these folks stay home and be safe,” Johnson said.

A former church visitor named Rick Gauvin passed by as cars flooded entered the building. Gauvin said he doesn’t believe the church intended for anyone to get the virus and says its taking necessary precautions to prevent and new cases.

“They had masks over their horns they were being completely protected from the start when COVID started, when they wanted me to be a member of that church,” Gauvin said.

Johnson suggested the Bishop seek virtual alternatives, like he’s done with his own congregation.

Mecklenburg County health officials said they’re encouraging the church to continue practicing health and safety guidelines.

“That’s all we can do at this point is encourage them to make sure that their parishioners, and their congregation is safe and protected,” Harris said.

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