UNIVERSAL CITY, Texas — A Texas minister blames his own impatience for a novel coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 50 of his parishioners.
Pastor Ron Arbaugh said none of his congregants at Calvary Chapel of San Antonio tested positive for COVID-19 during the nearly nine-week government-enforced shutdown, but the tide turned quickly within weeks of resuming in-person services.
“People were lonely. They were out of fellowship for all the weeks we were gone, so I said, ‘If you want to hug, it’s ok to do it,’” he told KENS.
Arbaugh, who has already apologized to his flock for any suffering his decision caused, told the TV station he should have exercised more patience.
According to KENS, the COVID-19 dam began to crack at Calvary on June 24, as notifications of positive cases began pouring in to Arbaugh’s office and inbox.
“Immediately we shut down the church to get everyone through a quarantine period,” he told WOAI, noting the church was thoroughly cleaned and a clinic run by the house of worship was also temporarily closed.
“I accept full responsibility. I’m the leader of the church,” Arbaugh said, adding, “If I could have done it all over again, I would have said ‘no hugging.’”
According to WOAI, at least one parishioner is on a ventilator, but Arbaugh said that member was already hospitalized prior to the outbreak.
Of the more than four dozen people who tested positive for the virus, including Arbaugh and his wife, the majority reported mild symptoms and most of those “have now been safely through the quarantine period,” he told KENS.
More specifically, Arbaugh told the TV station none of the Calvary Chapel victims died, no children connected to the church’s school contracted the virus and the majority of those sickened were at least 40 years old.
The church plans to resume services Sunday, adhering strictly to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s guidelines, including the required wearing of face coverings and sitting every other row to meet social distancing requirements, KENS reported.