A Tacony church has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases among its members, health officials said Wednesday afternoon, becoming the first religious institution in Philadelphia with a documented outbreak.
Nine people from five different households who attend CityReach Church, at 6814 Torresdale Ave. have tested positive, though the Department of Public Health believes more people connected with the church are infected.
Anyone who attended a service at CityReach this month should quarantine for 14 days and monitor for possible symptoms, officials said. Contact tracers are working to reach out to those who might have second-hand exposure.
The church’s pastor, Mark Novales, confirmed the outbreak. In-person services have been suspended since Aug. 13.
“We’re just looking out for the health and safety of everybody and that’s why we’re going to close, probably for about a month,” he told Metro.
Novales, who had the virus in March without any symptoms, said the popular church reopened for in-person services in July, with attendance at about 30 percent of what it was before the pandemic.
Members have been practicing social distancing and wearing masks, he said.
The health department identified the CityReach outbreak through its contact tracing program. Officials said the first case began showing symptoms as early as Aug. 6, and tracers have in recent days interviewed six church members who have tested positive.
City guidance calls on religious leaders to limit attendance to 25 people, including staff, and prohibit group singing and choirs, in addition to enforcing mask-wearing and distancing.