COVID-19 cluster identified at The Way Center Church, free testing available

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ELMIRA HEIGHTS, N.Y. (WETM) – A cluster of COVID-19 cases have been linked back to The Way Center Church in Elmira Heights, according to Chemung County Executive Chris Moss.

The county did not say how many cases are directly linked to the church, but says anyone who visited the church between Sept. 25 and Oct. 8 monitor for symptoms and attend a free rapid testing event at the Chemung County Fairgrounds on Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The testing will be at the 4-H building at 170 Fairview Road in Horseheads.

Participants must pre-register and will be directed to parking spots upon entry. They must remain in their cars with windows rolled up until staff arrive for testing. Results will be made available at the site.

Events held at the church during that time include services, a women’s group meeting, and a food donation event, which is considered “very low-risk.”

Those who attended those events are asked to monitor themselves for symptoms and self-quarantine.

On Oct. 8 the church shared pictures of their food giveaway with volunteers wearing masks.

County Executive Moss says that additional details regarding The Way Center will be released “in the very near future.”

The Way Center sent the following statement to 18 News regarding the cluster:

On September 29 we became aware of two people in our congregation who had become sick.  On the evening of September 30 we became aware of two to three more individuals that were also ill. Subsequently, on Thursday October 1, The Way Center canceled all in person services, including special services planned for the first week of October. At this time we were unaware that any of these illnesses were COVID related, however, we chose to take a safe position. On October 1 we encouraged those that were sick to get tested for the virus. On Sunday October 4, we were notified of three congregants that tested positive. On that same afternoon our staff notified all who had been in attendance in the last ten days of a possible exposure. Then on Monday October 5, I had an extended conversation with the Chemung County Health Department in regards to these positive results. We shared with DOH all of the precautions we had taken and the measures we continued to take to safeguard our church family. We spoke with DOH again on the following Friday October 9 to share anymore information we had learned.  We also spoke with them again today, October 13, for the purpose of sharing information and our continued safety plan.

The Way Center has distributed food to over 2000 people each of the last two Thursdays. We have done this using a stringent safety plan, outside help, and prescreened individuals. We have utilized all required COVID mandates and guidelines, during these food distributions.  We will continue to do the Thursday food drives using the same methods. We place the highest regard for the safety of our people and our community. We believe our quick reaction to these illnesses demonstrate our concern for our church family and our community.

Pastor Jeff Redner

On Tuesday Chemung County reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 with 115 active cases.

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