Deacon tests positive for COVID-19 after Diocese of Savannah ceremony

ByBlair Caldwell|June 2, 2020 at 6:35 PM EDT - Updated June 2 at 6:35 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - After reopening the Dioceses of Savannah last week one person attending an annual ceremony Saturday tested positive for COVID-19.

“It is frustrating," said Reverend Daniel Firmin, administrator for the Diocese of Savannah. "But it’s not going to dissuade us.”

Several pastors, deacons and church leaders were at the Diaconate Ordination ceremony at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist where they made special accommodations because of COVID-19. It wasn’t until after the ceremony they learned of the positive coronavirus case in a deacon and they quickly contacted the Coastal Health District.

“It wasn’t open to the public, it was an invitation only event," explained Reverend Firmin. "So we were able to know everyone who was there. We actually had seating charts and there was space throughout the cathedral. We took every precaution that we needed plenty of hand sanitizer, rerouted the way we distributed communion even. We knew everyone who was there everyone has been notified and so we’re covering all our bases in that way.”

After they learned of the coronavirus cases leaders with the diocese let each church leadership team decide for themselves how they wanted to proceed. At St. James Catholic Church they are going to continue their services, but at St Frances Cabrini Catholic Church things are cancelled until further notice. He says beyond that church members can decide for themselves what is best. Churches are limiting capacity to 25 percent, sanitizing and more to keep people safe, but also say their live stream online will continue for those who want it.

“We know that there is a risk," said Reverend Daniel Firmin. "We can’t eliminate all the risks all we can do is do whatever we can to provide a safe environment for people so that when they do come in they are safe and they take the necessary precautions.”

Several of those at the ceremony Saturday have taken COVID-19 tests and self-quarantined. Reverend Firmin says not everyone who was at the ceremony was exposed and this process has taught them a lot.

“When we don’t panic we can actually deal with it better," explained Firmin. "If we have that knee jerk reaction we’re going to cause a lot more frustration and a lot more panic and set people even more ill at ease then they need to be.”

As for other religious bodies across town, Mayor Van Johnson says the city has formed a task force to discuss how they can safety reopen to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“We know there are some general guidelines out there we want to make them more specific to our faith community here in Savannah so they are working,” explained Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

The mayor says the task force’s recommendations should be available next week.

Photo: WTOC

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