40 sick, 11 in hospital following COVID-19 cluster at Abbotsford church

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The Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church in Abbotsford, B.C., said they were informed of members in their congregation becoming sick around Oct. 18, and asked those who were ill to self-isolate. (Google Maps - image credit)
The Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church in Abbotsford, B.C., said they were informed of members in their congregation becoming sick around Oct. 18, and asked those who were ill to self-isolate. (Google Maps - image credit)

An Abbotsford church has voluntarily shut down all in-person services after a COVID-19 cluster resulted in 40 people sick, 11 of whom were sent to hospital last month.

The Clearbrook Mennonite Brethren Church said they were informed of members in their congregation becoming sick around Oct. 18.

Those who were ill were asked to self-isolate as all church services were moved online.

"Some were testing positive for COVID. Others were not tested but were ill, nonetheless," said pastor Scott Tolhurst.

"Our reaction is one of concern. We are concerned for the families that are going through this, for the individuals who are not well."

Under current B.C. COVID-19 regulations, there are no capacity limits for indoor or outdoor religious services.

Tolhurst said many of those who were sick only experienced mild symptoms and at least three people have been discharged from the hospital.

"We are unaware of where the cluster began," Tolhurst said.

"We have so many points of connection, both in worship and in doing ministry together and then socializing outside the church. It's impossible for us to trace back."

Before the cluster, the church had 180 to 200 people attend Sunday services, most of whom were seniors over the age of 65, but Tolhurst said public health and safety protocols were adhered to.

"We've been advocating, obviously, if you're sick, stay home, wash your hands, respect one anothers' safe distance, mask where appropriate. And certainly we've been stressing the vaccine," he said.

An outbreak has not officially been declared at the church but the cluster was reported to the Fraser Health Authority.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says this is an example of what can happen in groups in a community — even if all health and safety protocols are met.

"What it shows is the need for caution when we come together, the need to be vaccinated, the need to wear masks in indoor public spaces, the need to protect one another," Dix said.

In-person services at the church are expected to resume by Nov. 14.

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