The Los Angeles church that has been legally wrangling with county government over COVID-19 lockdowns saw three confirmed cases among its congregation of roughly 7,000, public health officials said Thursday.
Grace Community Church, which made headlines in July when senior pastor John MacArthur and the church elders reopened their doors in defiance of state and local lockdown orders, are working together with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Houses of worship must report to the county Public Health Department when at least three positive COVID-19 cases emerge among either staff or congregants in order to assist the government in containing a potential outbreak.
Jenna Ellis, who serves as legal counsel for the church, pushed back against the assertion that three cases constitute an outbreak.
In a statement to The Daily Wire, Ellis said:
Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news. 0.04% is not an “outbreak.” The LA Times and others’ grossly misleading and fear-mongering headlines aim to mischaracterize Grace Community Church as irresponsible and a superspreader. It has never been the Church’s position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season. Our position has been that LA County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state-preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion.
Within days of the church first announcing its intention to defy the lockdown order, the county issued a cease and desist letter threatening $1,000 daily fines and even imprisonment if they failed to comply. In response, the church filed a lawsuit against the county asking for a declaration and judgment that the health order is unconstitutional, both on face and as applied. A judge later refused to hold the church in contempt without a trial, and their next court date is Nov. 13.
During a recent interview with The Daily Wire, MacArthur did not rule out the possibility that infections might occur at his reopened church but maintained that it was not as deadly as many seemingly believe:
While the virus, of course, can be deadly, MacArthur said, the chance of dying of it — particularly for those under 65 without any co-morbidities — is a fraction of a percent. In a recent Sunday service, he even went so far as to declare “there is no pandemic.” As evidence, he cited the CDC report that of the 200,000 people who have died in connection to the virus, “for 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”
When I asked him if his critics among the Lockdown Left would declare that he was selling false hope if he were to get infected and die, the pastor shrugged off such a claim.
“For me, to die is gain,” he replied, quoting the apostle Paul in the Book of Philippians. “That is not even a relevant thought to me. Far better to depart and be with Christ… The Lord’s in complete charge of my life. When it’s over, it’s over, and it’s up to him.”
While MacArthur dismissed cynical attempts to undermine the larger message about the freedom of religion, he said that he does not want to be “irresponsible” in his approach to coronavirus. “The good news is I haven’t pronounced that I can heal people,” he joked. But he also made a point of noting that no one has died of COVID-19 from going to his fully reopened church.