Church of God International Offices' Communications Coordinator Cameron Fisher said on Tuesday that additional cases of COVID-19 among staff will keep the denomination’s global headquarters closed until at least July 13.
“We have been informed of several cases of the coronavirus among our staff,” Fisher told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “Some have fully recovered and others are in the process.”
Due to privacy concerns, Fisher said names and the number of staff members reporting COVID-19 symptoms will not be released except to local health officials.
He said the International Offices “continues to keep in place a series of procedures and practices begun in mid-March to protect the safety of its employees, including providing hand-sanitizing stations and spray, gloves and masks."
On June 25, after learning of an employee who tested positive for COVID-19, church officials closed the complex the next day, with plans to remain closed for the next two weeks through the Fourth of July holiday.
However, the temporary closure has been extended due to the increase in positive cases.
“We have taken the additional step of keeping our offices closed until at least July 13,” Fisher said. “Our prayers go out to all who are suffering during this pandemic.”
The Church of God community has been rocked in recent weeks by multiple coronavirus cases.
On June 7, Westmore held a dedication service for its new church campus, located on Legacy Drive.
On June 25, Westmore Church of God Lead Pastor Kelvin Page announced via a video on the church's social media page that five church members had tested positive for the virus. The next day, Page announced the number of individuals testing positive had increased to 12, forcing the church to offer online-only church services to its members through July 11.
The video bulletin was made just days after the church hosted a Father's Day concert featuring gospel singer Jason Crabb, which was followed the next day by a three-hour regional worship service for Southeast Tennessee Church of God congregations.
Several days after performing at the church, Crabb posted a message on his social media page to announce he had canceled an appearance for that night. Cancellations of other scheduled performances were also announced.
Due to spikes in local infection rates, Page said the church would adjust its worship schedule.
“We feel that the prudent thing to do is step back and adjust our service approach over the next two Sundays,” he said.
Page said the church will “open up on some level on July 12."
On Tuesday, as reported by the Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 while undergoing treatment for double pneumonia. Brooks is also employed by the Church of God's International Offices, where he is the church's public affairs and conference coordinator.
In a previous news story published by the Banner in Sunday's edition, Cleveland Mayor Emeritus Tom Rowland confirmed with the local newspaper that he and his wife, Sandra, had tested positive for COVID-19. Rowland, who served as Cleveland mayor for 28 years prior to retiring, said he and the city's former first lady had also visited Westmore Church of God recently.
At last report, the Rowlands were resting comfortably at home. Brooks continues to be treated for both double pneumonia and the coronavirus.
In interviews with the Banner, both Rowland and Brooks encouraged Cleveland and Bradley County residents to abide by safety protocol such as wearing face masks, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently and make every attempt to avoid large crowds.
Last month, Cleveland was listed by the New York Times as a coronavirus hotspot. On July 3, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee also noted that Bradley County was experiencing spikes in new cases.
On Tuesday, June 30, the Tennessee Department of Health posted a record 57 new cases for Bradley County, which was later broken on July 3, when 58 new cases were reported.
"The growth in cases isn't limited to our densely populated urban areas," the governor said during the July 3 press conference. "I've very concerned about the number of cases that we are seeing in our counties outside of our urban areas, like Sevier County and Macon County and Bradley County and Rutherford County and many others."