Visitation service at a funeral home may be the source of a coronavirus outbreak in Georgia

Nation and World News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Residents in and surrounding Liberty, Long and Wayne counties may have been exposed to COVID-19 at recent events, according to the Coastal Health District (CHD).

A public health investigation revealed that a Long County resident — now hospitalized with the disease — attended some services while symptomatic.

CHD says anyone who attended the following gatherings should immediately self-quarantine and monitor their symptoms:

  • April 5 and 8: Church services at Living Waters Ministries on 862 South Coastal Hwy in Midway, Georgia
  • April 9: A visitation and funeral at the Royal Funeral Home at 247 West Pine Street in Jesup, Georgia
  • April 9: A post-funeral gathering in a private home in Midway, Georgia

Royal Funeral Home says they hosted a visitation that day for close family members. Director Patricia Lester says she limited the number of visitors inside the building to 10.

“It gets to be frustrating when you have some people abiding by the rules and some acting as if they don’t know anything about coronavirus,” said Lester.

She confirms nearly 30 people continued to show up at the funeral home, and soon, the visitation got out of hand. Lester says some visitors were from out-of-state and likely from hotspots like New York City and Atlanta.

“We asked them to leave, locked the doors and proceeded to allow the family to express their final thoughts,” she said.

Jesup Police Department says they got an anonymous call about a crowd forming on the front porch of the funeral home. Chief Mike Lane says three officers responded and were wearing appropriate protective gear.

The crowd dispersed quickly and peacefully after police showed up to the funeral home.

Chief Lane says the three officers did not get close or come into direct contact with any of the people at the visitation. He says the officers are not isolating right now, but he is making sure they are tested for coronavirus.

“If we have to respond to these gatherings and we get an officer that gets exposed, now that virus spreads through the department. Who will people — who really have an emergency — call upon then if my whole department has been placed under quarantine?” he said.

The CHD says church services — and other similar gatherings — have been dangerous in other communities.

“We’re concerned for those people that may have been in close contact with this individual and we feel anybody attending those services should begin self-quarantining,” said CHD Director Dr. Lawton Davis.

While Davis worries about the virus spreading more, Chief Lane is worried about what will happen if any of his 31 officers need to self-isolate.

“It would be drastic. We’re a small town,” he said. “It spreads us really short with people working overtime to cover shifts and stuff like that.”

News 3 has reached out on social media to two employees at Living Waters Ministries. The church was closed and empty on Thursday. There is no listed phone number.

Self-quarantine guidelines

Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher says two enforcement officers and one correction officer attended the visitation and funeral. He says they are self-isolating as a precautionary measure. They have not experienced any symptoms.

Sheriff Wilcher says an enforcement officer came into contact with one of the three employees who attended services. That officer is also self-isolating.

Officials say individuals should monitor their health for fever, cough or shortness of breath for 14 days from the last possible time of exposure.

“For example, if you attended the funeral service on April 9, you should self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms until April 24,” CHD explained.

Individuals should also stay home for those two weeks, even from work, unless they need to seek medical care.

“If you become sick with fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should immediately isolate
yourself and avoid all unnecessary physical contact with everyone, including people in your
home, and contact a physician for further guidance,” CHD advised.

Anyone with severe symptoms or difficulty breathing is urged to call 911 for help.

For more information about quarantine, isolation and testing, visit here.

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