20 People Test Positive For Coronavirus After Attending Funerals; Pastor Who Gave Eulogy Dies

A local Black-owned funer­al home in Albany, Georgia, is shocked to learn they unknow­ing­ly host­ed two funer­als that report­ed­ly infect­ed at least 20 peo­ple with coro­n­avirus includ­ing the pas­tor who deliv­ered one of the eulo­gies. Sadly, that pas­tor has since died from COVID-19.

Local health offi­cials say that the out­break began short­ly after the funer­als for 64-year old retired jan­i­tor Andrew J. Mitchell and anoth­er unnamed man. Both funer­als were attend­ed by their rel­a­tives and friends, and at least one per­son who attend­ed was infect­ed caus­ing oth­ers to also become infect­ed. As of Wednesday after­noon, there are at least 490 con­firmed coro­n­avirus cas­es and at least 29 coro­n­avirus-relat­ed deaths report­ed in Dougherty County, which is home to Albany, accord­ing to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

It took one per­son, who­ev­er that was, and there was no intent,” Scott Steiner, CEO of Albany’s largest hos­pi­tal told CNN. “It shows this virus can quick­ly spread.”
The Georgia Department of Health con­firmed that the virus spread among “indi­vid­u­als who attend­ed a num­ber of events in Albany.” The depart­ment added, how­ev­er, that it is not yet 100% clear “where or with whom it all start­ed.”
Mitchell’s 75-year old long-time part­ner Emell Murray was one of those infect­ed with the coro­n­avirus. She was hos­pi­tal­ized for fever and high blood pres­sure a few days after Mitchell’s funer­al.

So how did all this start?

Authorities have report­ed­ly traced the town­wide out­break to a 67-year old man who trav­eled from Atlanta to attend one of the funer­als. He report­ed being sick, and was hos­pi­tal­ized in Albany. “The next day it’s when we began see­ing peo­ple com­ing to our emer­gency room who were sick,” Steiner said. “Two (peo­ple) the first day, six the next day, eight the next day, and it just began to cas­cade from that point.”

A state­ment from the funer­al home and the gov­er­nor

The Martin Luther King Memorial Chapel, which host­ed the two funer­als on February 29 and March 7 respec­tive­ly, released a state­ment after they were noti­fied by the health depart­ment offi­cials of the pos­si­ble spread of the virus on March 13.
“Although we have been iden­ti­fied as a com­mon fac­tor in the track­ing of the COVID-19 in Albany, know that we are oper­at­ing with­in all reg­u­la­to­ry safe­ty or health guide­lines,” the funer­al home direc­tors wrote in a Facebook post. “We know that there is a grow­ing con­cern across the city. We are tak­ing extra pre­cau­tions to pro­tect you, our staff and the com­mu­ni­ties we serve.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp expressed his con­cern about the rapid increase of coro­n­avirus cas­es in Albany in a press con­fer­ence, cit­ing the impor­tance of com­ply­ing with the stay-at-home order in the state.
“I believe there was a funer­al ser­vice weeks ago where an infect­ed per­son went, and it cre­at­ed this whole epi­cen­ter which just explod­ed down there,” Kemp said. “That’s one of the rea­sons we have been beg­ging peo­ple to not have — and I know it’s a hard thing — reli­gious ser­vices.”