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Rock Church reports 15 employees recently tested positive for coronavirus

Rock Church in Point Loma began having indoor services again April 18.
After more than a year of no indoor services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rock Church in Point Loma began having indoor services again April 18.
(John Gastaldo)

Outbreaks, once a closely watched measure of coronavirus spread outside the home, are much less frequent than they were a few months ago.

But as the experience of one local church shows, the risk has not yet been extinguished.

According to a statement this week, Rock Church, which has popular venues across San Diego County, including its largest campus at 2277 Rosecrans St. in Point Loma, recently confirmed 15 coronavirus infections at its five locations, causing the house of worship to reduce the number of in-person gatherings on May 16 and again May 23.

Lisa Penberthy, The Rock’s chief operating officer, said in an email that the impact has been evenly felt across the worship staff.

“We have had three staff, each from different campuses, who tested positive within two days of each other,” Penberthy said. “To the best of our knowledge, the three staff did not have interaction with each other the week before testing positive, nor are they related to one another.”

All others exposed to those who tested positive are quarantining, but there is no confirmation that infections were tied to the workplace, she said.

Some have been asymptomatic, others have had symptoms and none were vaccinated. Citing employee privacy, the church declined to say whether any were hospitalized.

No worshipers were said to have tested positive.

The Rock resumed indoor services April 18, after no such gatherings had occurred in more than a year.

Though participants were able to sit closer than six feet from one another since the reopening and were not required to wear masks once seated, the church said it has conducted thorough cleanings of its facilities after each service.

In a presentation to the county Board of Supervisors on May 18, Dr. Wilma Wooten, director of the county public health department, said outbreaks — defined as three or more unrelated cases occurring in the same location in the same two-week period — are becoming much less common than they once were.

Nearly 250 such events were documented in December and January — the largest number since the COVID-19 pandemic started. But numbers have dropped significantly as 2021 has progressed and more residents have become fully vaccinated. In May, 27 outbreaks have been detected so far, a number that is on pace to come in under April’s total of 85.

Outbreaks remain the only category still not in the green on the county’s “trigger” list of coronavirus indicators. Thirteen outbreaks were recorded in seven days recently, six more than the activity considered to be within acceptable limits.

Wooten said during her weekly COVID-19 news conference May 20 that it’s the same lack of mask wearing and social distancing that has always been the main culprit.

“There is no magic answer here; the same things that caused outbreaks last May causes outbreaks this May,” Wooten said.


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