Coronavirus: US priest who shook hands with more than 500 worshippers infected with virus

'Several hundred' people ordered to self-quarantine after church closes due to risk of infection

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 09 March 2020 13:11 GMT
Coronavirus cases: The spread outside China

Several hundred people have been ordered to self-quarantine after the rector of a prominent church in Washington DC was confirmed as the city's first coronavirus patient.

Reverend Timothy Cole of Christ Church Episcopal in Georgetown remains hospitalised after DC health officials announced on Monday he was infected with the flu-like illness.

City officials are urging all worshippers who visited the church either on 24 February of between 28 February and 3 March self-quarantine themselves for two weeks from the last time they have visited the church.

He was positively diagnosed on Saturday. Reverend Crystal Hardin said that "out of an abundance of caution, Christ Church has cancelled all activities including church services until further notice," marking the first time the church has been closed since a fire in the 1800s.

In an email to parishioners, Reverend Cole wrote: "First, I want to assure you that I will be OK. I am receiving excellent care and am in good spirits under the circumstances. I will remain quarantined for the next 14 days as will the rest of my family."

The district's historic Christ Church was founded in 1817. Reverend Cole has been a rector at the church since 2016.

Washington officials say "several hundred people were impacted and had interactions" with Reverend Cole, which may have included giving communion and shaking hands.

People who came into contact with him are at "medium risk" of infection, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as s "close contact with a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed Covid-19" or being seated within six feet with a symptomatic travellers on an airplane and living the in the same household or caring for a person in a non-healthcare setting with a person who also exhibits symptoms.

Officials have also confirmed the area's second coronavirus patient. That person travelled to the US from Nigeria then checked into a Maryland hospital.

In connection with that case, School Without Walls cancelled classes on Monday, becoming the first public school in the DC area to close. DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said the school is expected to re-open on Tuesday.

More than 22 US deaths have been reported following the spread of Covid-19 across the country. More than 500 cases have been reported in 34 states, with California, New York, Oregon and Washington state declaring emergencies as they brace for a rise in confirmed cases.

The World Health Organization has confirmed the virus in more than 100 countries.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in