Mendocino County finds 6 new coronavirus cases connected to local church
Mendocino County reported six new cases of the coronavirus Friday, all of which are connected to an outbreak at the Redwood Valley Assembly of God church.
The new test results bring the county’s total number of COVID-19 cases from 15 to 21 - an increase of almost 50%, the county said in a news release. The six new cases are the only positive results among the 337 tests conducted as part of the county’s surveillance testing project in Redwood Valley on Tuesday.
County health officials decided to initiate the surveillance testing in the community after a husband-wife worship team at Redwood Valley Assembly of God and an elderly Ukiah Valley man who joined them at the church as they streamed a Mother’s Day service all became sick from COVID-19 last weekend.
Lake County residents Jack McMilin, who is the church pastor, and his wife, Sharon, both contracted the disease. Jack McMilin has underlying health conditions and was hospitalized at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley. His wife previously told parishioners in a post to the church’s Facebook group that he had pneumonia, and on Friday said in a post that he was doing better.
Sharon McMilin and the Ukiah Valley man, who has not been publicly identified, have each been recovering at their homes.
Although Sharon McMilin previously spoke to The Press Democrat, saying that she thought the situation was blown out of proportion, she declined to speak to the newspaper about the six new cases connected with the church Friday. She expressed frustration with the way “the press and media” have covered the outbreak in a Facebook post to parishioners Thursday.
“Did the press and Media Not Know this Virus came from China! It’s all over the world!! We are victims just like others will be,” McMilin posted in the church’s Facebook group. “I pray they Don’t attack you like they have our Family and Our Church! I know a lot of People are rejoicing because this gives them the excuse not to go to church, and you tear a church down!”
County officials have said they don’t know how many people were present at the Mother’s Day church service. Under the county health order, up to 12 people are allowed to participate in a worship service live-streamed to others remotely, so long as they abide by social distancing measures meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The six new cases connected with the outbreak at the church are in isolation, and people that they’ve come into close contact with are in quarantine, said county spokeswoman Sarah Dukett. Dukett didn’t know Friday the conditions of the six people, or what, if any, symptoms they may have.
Case investigations and contact tracing for the six new patients are underway, the county said. Dukett didn’t know if any of the patients attended the Mother’s Day service but said they had at some point come into contact with the previous three cases at the church.
The county advised anyone who has been in recent contact with Redwood Valley Assembly of God to seek testing, if they haven’t already. Free testing for people without symptoms is offered at the county’s OptumServe testing site in Ukiah at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds. Appointments can be made online at lhi.care/covidtesting or by phone at 888-634-1123. Testing is available from 12:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
This increase in COVID-19 cases came the same day the county’s revised health order, which loosens certain restrictions, went into effect. After receiving state approval, Mendocino County Health Officer Dr. Noemi Doohan amended the shelter-in-place order to allow limited dine-in restaurants, in-person shopping at retail stores and preventative dental care to resume.
With these loosened restrictions and expanded testing, Dukett said it’s likely the county will see an increase in reported cases. But county officials urged residents and businesses to continue following social distancing requirements to limit the spread of the virus.
“If we don’t see that type of compliance, and we keep seeing cases on the rise, there is the possibility that we may have to take a step back,” Dukett said.