NYT Claims Church Is 'Major Source' of COVID - but Only .02% of US Cases Are Linked to Church


Hell hath no fury like the wrath doled out by cultural Karens toward those who want to attend religious services in person.

Want to protest? Go nuts.

Want to go to your place of worship? Don’t you know the risks? Don’t you care about my grandmother?

In New York City, the Karen depot is located at 620 Eighth Ave., behind the imposing facade of The New York Times Building. There, reporters can cluck heartily at the rubes who are clinging to their religion (and assumedly their guns). They can glare disapprovingly at Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities and their hesitancy to follow social distancing guidelines.

And, in the same breath, they’ll tell you emphatically there’s no chance the novel coronavirus spread at the recent wave of protests that swept across that city and the nation.

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On Wednesday, New York’s paper of record published an article about a rash of COVID-19 cases linked to Christian religious services.

“Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are a Major Source of Coronavirus Cases,” the headline of the piece declared.

Sounds pretty dire. So did the first sentence of the sub-headline: “The virus has infiltrated Sunday services, church meetings and youth camps.”

And then you read on: “More than 650 coronavirus cases have been linked to nearly 40 churches and religious events across the United States since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Should churches be locked down?

Oh. Well, time to do the crossword.

It’s unclear how many people have gone back to church or other forms of in-person religious worship; The Times’ article only deals with Christian services. Given the total number of cases on Friday morning, using Johns Hopkins University data of the total number of COVID-19 cases, that means that .02 percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases are linked to religious services.

Many pointed out that number hardly represents a “major source of coronavirus cases.”

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Which explains why The Times changed its headline to “Now They Are Confronting Coronavirus Cases.”

And some of these cases also have little to do with the inherent contagiousness of the coronavirus.

Take what happened at the Calvary Chapel of San Antonio, one of the churches where a number of congregants have tested positive for COVID-19. Pastor Ron Arbaugh says his congregation followed “the letter of the law” when it reopened.

“The ushers, greeters and leaders of the children’s ministry wore face masks. Families sat spaced out in the pews. About half the congregation wore masks,” The Times reported.

“But now, about 50 congregants and staff members — including the pastor and his wife — have tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Arbaugh said all the cases had been mild so far.”

Sounds bad, until you consider this: “He said he does not know how the virus spread in the church or who brought it in, but that he now regrets announcing after several weeks of resumed services that congregants could hug one another again.” [Emphasis mine.]

Well, I’m bewildered at how this could have happened. This has less than zero to do with the inherent perils of being indoors in the time of COVID and everything to do with a pastor who made an eye-openingly questionable decision.

“In retrospect, I would have said: Just maintain that distance,” Arbaugh said. “In a spiritual environment, we had people who were away from fellowship for so long and in isolation. They were hurting. We just got to a point where we thought, we need to have normal church services.”

Well, that didn’t quite work out for him. And the Karens at The Times didn’t just come for churches.

“Over 80 cases have been linked to Kanakuk Kamps, a Christian youth camp in Missouri,” the report said.

“Melissa Fisher, a parent whose teenagers attended the facility in early June, said that camp leaders had asked campers to quarantine themselves for two weeks before arriving and to monitor their temperatures. Campers were given masks to wear in group settings, although they were not required to wear them when they were in smaller groups of campers they were rooming with, she said.”

It’s difficult to meet this with a shrug when you consider that people died because of this. However, given the grim circumstances, there are going to be deaths and COVID-19 cases. That there aren’t more ought to be the surprise here.

Later in the article, The Times’ writers note something that probably should have been mentioned earlier: Churches are often held to more stringent guidelines for reopening than other businesses and establishments are.

For instance, in Nevada, a church is mounting a legal challenge against “state rules that cap religious gatherings at 50 people while allowing casinos and other reopening businesses to operate without similar limits.”

I don’t quite remember casinos being so important to our national fabric that the God-given right to get plastered and lose $220 at the low-limit blackjack tables is enumerated in any of the amendments, but perhaps my memory’s rusty.

Most churches are doing social distancing properly and haven’t been contributing to the national caseload. Those that haven’t likely would have found some way to circumvent any restrictions put upon them; it’s hard to imagine what people really want at this moment is a concerted effort to find churches that aren’t practicing social distancing laws and using police to crack down upon them.

Even with these COVID-scofflaw congregations, the number of cases they represent is well under both 1,000 cases and 1 percent of the national total. There’s no evidence church services have driven any kind of surge or spike in the total number of cases.

But the cultural Karens have spoken.

If all else fails, you can reliably tell a story’s intent by its closing paragraphs. In this one, The Times quotes Dan Satterwhite, a pastor at an Oregon church currently on the receiving end of plenty of community invective because it was thought to be the source of a coronavirus outbreak in rural Union County.

“My personal belief is, I have faith in God,” Satterwhite said. “If God wants me to get Covid, I’ll get Covid. And if God doesn’t want me to get Covid, I won’t.”

This seems a bit like a wry take on that old joke about the man who, in a flood, is first visited by a rowboat, then a motorboat, then a helicopter, all sent there to save him. No, he says every time, he trusts in God. He drowns and goes to Heaven — and asks God why he didn’t save him. “You fool,” God says. “I sent you the rowboat, I sent you the motorboat, I sent you the helicopter, why didn’t you go?”

That’s a pithy use of the quote, but the idea that there’s an epidemic of churchgoers waving off the helicopters and ending up with COVID-19 isn’t borne out by the facts. At no point in the article was there any proof that these churches represent an epidemiological trend worth paying attention to. The evidence was anecdotal at best.

It fit the narrative, though. It was Karen-approved.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture