COVID-19 outbreaks arise in local faith-based groups

Two congregations in Garfield County have COVID-19 spread among members

Press Release
July 31, 2020

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Two different faith-based groups in Garfield County have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19 among worshippers, and Garfield County Public Health is urging vigilance to anyone gathering in groups to abide by social distancing guidelines and to wear masks.

One house of worship is home to 14 church attendees who are lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive, and has another six probable cases with compatible symptoms. Those numbers are likely to change. Most of this spread occurred before the state mask ordinance went into effect July 17, and investigation reveals people weren’t wearing masks and practicing social distancing. One infected person reported first being sick July 2, but wasn’t tested until July 21.

A separate church has been identified as having similar spread amongst congregation members. Contact tracing investigations are underway into these houses of worship in an effort to stop further potential spread of the virus.

Of specific concern are congregations that impart singing in services, especially those with choirs. The sheer velocity at which spittle or droplets leave the mouth while singing can cast it further than six feet, creating a higher risk of spread within a house of worship. The Colorado Department of Environmental Health and Environment (CDPHE) lists large gatherings and group singing in its highest risk consideration category, along with going to the gym, or to bars and nightclubs.

It is vitally important that if you are ill, you remain at home, isolate from your family members and do not go to work. Wearing masks and practicing social distancing are also crucial to stopping the spread of the virus. If you are sick, or are around someone who is sick, follow instructions on self-isolation and self-quarantine.

People eat, play, work and live with one another. Whatever you do, remember that if you’re ill and going out in public or to work and ignoring social distancing guidelines, you are bringing this virus back to your home and community. CDPHE notes that the safest option is to attend online services, if offered by your place of worship.

Garfield County Public Health is working hard to keep your families and businesses safe through monitoring illness outbreaks and educating the community, but everyone in the public must take responsible measures to stop the active spread of COVID-19. Increased spread negatively impacts local hospitals, health care providers and health departments; and harms our businesses and local economy. The actions of some people at gatherings create a wide-ranging risk for the health and vitality of the community as a whole, in addition to specific friends, family members and places of employment.

Carriers of COVID-19 do not have to exhibit all the symptoms to spread the virus. If a person has even two symptoms, he or she must remain home and isolate from family members. It’s the only way to quell spread of coronavirus.

If you have questions, contact Garfield County Public Health at (970) 625-5200, ext. 8120 (Rifle) or (970) 945-6614, ext. 8120 (Glenwood Springs), or visit Follow local and state press announcements regarding COVID-19 response at and subscribe to updates or follow @garfieldhealth on Facebook.