[Episcopal News Service] At least 41 clergy members in the Diocese of Pennsylvania tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a clergy conference last week, Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez revealed May 3 in a letter to the Philadelphia-based diocese.
The in-person conference was held April 25-27 in Cape May, New Jersey, and about 150 clergy members attended, including the bishop. It was the first such conference held by the diocese since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Gutiérrez said.
“It was a joyous time with a vibrant guest speaker,” Gutiérrez said. “Our conference planning committee took great steps to ensure that safety precautions were in place for those attending the conference. Participants were required to be vaccinated and boosted to attend and were encouraged to mask if they so chose. ”
On April 28, four attendees informed the diocese they had tested positive for the coronavirus. The diocese responded by informing all attendees that they may have been exposed, and more clergy reported testing positive.
“I have called each person who notified me of a positive test and, thankfully, all have reported mild symptoms, with none requiring hospitalization,” Gutiérrez said. “Affected clergy were instructed not to lead worship this past Sunday and we provided support for their congregation where needed.”
Gutiérrez noted that the outbreak mirrors trends in the region, where coronavirus cases are increasing. The diocese’s 135 churches are located in the southeast corner of the state. Despite an uptick in cases there over the past month, hospitalizations and deaths have remained low and are far fewer the numbers seen nationwide during the winter surge in COVID-19 related to the omicron variant.
“As the virus becomes more endemic, we will continue to see cases occur even when protocols are in place and people are up to date on vaccines,” Gutiérrez said. “As there are new medical developments we will continue to update our protocols and support our churches so that we may continue to worship and gather as safely as possible.
“Unfortunately, this disease is going to be with us for a while. United in Jesus Christ, as one people and one diocese we will continue to rise to the challenge. ”
News of the outbreak among Pennsylvania clergy comes after at least four members of the Executive Council, including the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, tested positive for the coronavirus following the governing body’s April 20-23 meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
All members attending the Executive Council meeting were required to show proof of vaccination when registering. A similar requirement will be in place for bishops, deputies and all others attending the 80th General Convention from July 7-14 in Baltimore, Maryland, and additional precautions are under consideration.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at [email protected].