Ten-day indoor prayer retreat attended by ‘several hundred people’ at New Hampshire church who ‘removed their masks to sing’ leads to COVID-19 outbreak

  • An indoor prayer retreat was held at Gate City Church, in Nashua, New Hampshire, from September 18 to September 29
  • Social distancing and mask guidelines were followed, but families did remove their masks at one point during the service to sing
  • Nine people who attended the event have tested positive for COVID-19 and several hundred more are being asked to get tested 
  • Nashua’s director of Public Health says the outbreak is likely linked to an asymptomatic person who did not know they were infected

A 10-day indoor prayer retreat for parishioners at a church in New Hampshire led to an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

It is estimated that ‘several hundred people’ attended the event at Gate City Church, in Nashua, which ran from September 18 to September 29.

So far, nine people who participated in the retreat have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. 

Bobbie Bagley, director of the Nashua Department of Public Health & Community Services (NDPH), said although safety guidelines were mostly followed, families did remove their masks to sing, which was likely the precipitating factor in the outbreak. 

An indoor prayer retreat was held at Gate City Church (pictured), in Nashua, New Hampshire, from September 18 to September 29, with masks being removed to sing

An indoor prayer retreat was held at Gate City Church (pictured), in Nashua, New Hampshire, from September 18 to September 29, with masks being removed to sing

Nine people who attended the event have tested positive for COVID-19 and several hundred more are being asked to get tested, with the church moving all services online (above)

Nine people who attended the event have tested positive for COVID-19 and several hundred more are being asked to get tested, with the church moving all services online (above)

During a news conference on Thursday, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess said the state discovered the outbreak on October 5.  

‘Since then, our public health department has been working with the state and with the church to try to identify anyone who might have been in contact with a positive case,’ he said.

At the conference, Bagley said ‘patient zero’ was likely an asymptomatic person who did not know that they were infected with COVID-19.

She said the church followed state guidelines, including having families placed six to 10 feet apart and ensuring that people were wearing masks. 

But, at one point during the retreat, congregants ‘did take their masks off once they were in their family units to sing.’

‘Singing…in an enclosed building is one of the riskiest exposure opportunities with the virus,’ Bagley said.

‘And although there was nothing that was intended to cause any harm, this situation did allow for extended exposure at this church.’

She added that one of the earliest known cases had symptoms as early as September 26.

NDPH is currently performing contact tracing and monitoring the symptoms of those with confirmed cases.

Officials encourage anyone who who attended events held by the church since September 19 to get tested for the virus.

Gate City Church did not immediately return DailyMail.com’s request for comment.

However, according to a notice posted on the church’s website, all services will be online only until further notice. 

‘We have had a few of our members test positive for COVID-19 and while we do not operate in fear, we want to take every step necessary to mitigate your exposure and to be safe,’ the notice reads.

‘Please know that these are not large numbers and understand that these are not Gate City Church Staff.’

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