Pastor discusses impact of list of churches released by ADH

Updated: Jun. 30, 2020 at 6:11 AM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A list put out by the Arkansas Department of Health on Friday listed at least 40 churches where people with COVID-19 visited.

Dr. Archie Mason, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, said once someone tests positive for COVID-19, they are asked several questions about where they have been for the last two weeks, like grocery stores, restaurants, and even church.

If the answer is yes that information is placed in a database so they ADH can do contact tracing.

“I didn’t know that before Friday night because I was not notified by the Arkansas Department of Health,” Mason said.

Over the weekend, he said he did a lot of research and learned how the contact tracing works.

That news release had a disclaimer at the bottom that said the information collected was from the duration of the pandemic in Arkansas up to June 25.

“So it is an accumulative database that has any place where anyone had been,” Mason said. “So it just builds up.”

He said what happened at Central Baptist Church is that someone who had been there tested positive. Due to HIPPA laws, they do not know who that person was, when they attended the church, or which service that was attended.

“With the database being cumulative, it builds over time and doesn’t mean transmission occurred there,” Mason said, “It is for the point of helping the health department be able to trace.”

He said he made several comments over the weekend saying he believed churches have been treated unfairly with the release of the cumulative list.

During a conversation with Governor Asa Hutchinson, he asked him not to put out cumulative lists of places like churches, stores, and restaurants where someone with COVID-19 can be traced to.

“I understand what it is, but it could have a terrible effect upon businesses,” Mason says.

He said with it being cumulative, it could have been someone who tested positive came through the business or church months ago, but that business is still in the database.

As for Central Baptist Church, he said they follow all state guidelines.

“We try to have what we call a contactless service, so we will have people open the doors for you so you don’t have to touch the door. We have hand sanitizers inside. We have the doors to the worship center open so you can just walk in. We have seating arranged in such a way that if you have a large family, a family unit you can set together, but there’s not going to be anybody necessarily behind you or in front of you.”

He also urges people in Northeast Arkansas to come together to help businesses do well and survive and to continue to follow guidelines when out in public.

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