Public health officials are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak at a north Edmonton church that spread among the congregation for more than two weeks.
At least 13 cases have been confirmed in connection with the Bible Pentecostal Church at 13054 112th St., a spokesperson for Alberta Health said in an email Monday.
Alberta Health is advising anyone who attended the church between July 26 and Aug. 12 — and anyone who is a close contact of someone who attended — to book a COVID-19 test online and monitor for symptoms.
Details of the outbreak are expected to be added to the Alberta government website later Tuesday, the email said.
Former parishioner Amanda Potts said services were suspended last week but church officials have not not informed the congregation of the outbreak.
She said her mother and sister attended services recently. She said her sister is now showing COVID symptoms and waiting for a test.
“No official notice has been given out to the congregants,” Potts said in an interview with CBC News.
“If it has, it hasn’t reached my sister and my mom who have been going there for like 30 years.”
Potts grew up in the church but stopped attending about eight years ago.
Her mother and sister have not been contacted by government health officials, she said.
Potts said the lack of notification is concerning, especially for her mother, a senior and a cancer survivor who was in close proximity with a churchgoer who later tested positive.
“Last week, my sister got a call that church was cancelled and everyone was wondering, ‘What is going on?'” she said.
“My mom never did get a call and then it turns out, through the grapevine, we found out that people at the church had been diagnosed with COVID but it was all kept secret.”
The church, in the Lauderdale neighbourhood, has a congregation of more than 100 people. Services are held at least three times a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
As of Tuesday morning, a handwritten sign was posted on the door of the church.
“All church services are postponed until Sunday, August 26,” it said.
CBC News has called the church office and the congregation’s pastor. The calls have not been returned.
Alberta Health said officials are working to control the spread.
“In all outbreaks, health officials take swift action to protect the public and limit the spread,” Alberta Health spokesperson Sherene Khaw said in an emailed statement.
“All positive cases are isolated, aggressive contact tracing is underway, and health officials investigate possible sources of transmission and any epidemiological links.”
‘What took so long?’
Potts said in-person services at church were suspended this spring. They resumed a few weeks ago with physical distancing and mask protocols, she said.
Potts said a public notice should have been posted immediately to the Alberta Health Services website. Everyone in the congregation should have been informed of the risk of exposure, she said.
“Why didn’t Alberta Health Services figure this out quicker?
“From what I understand, the first case was detected over a week ago, so what took so long?”
Notifications of outbreaks are required under the provincial Public Health Act. Medical officers of health are accountable for outbreak investigation and management.
According to Stage 2 guidelines for places of worship operating during the pandemic, if there is an on-site exposure, all staff, congregants, and volunteers who were present at the time of the exposure should be notified that an exposure may have occurred.
Attendance lists from the time of the exposure should be shared with Alberta Health Services for contact tracing purposes.