COVID-19 outbreak connected to church confirmed in Coalhurst, Alta.

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WATCH ABOVE: A COVID-19 outbreak of 23 positive cases has been confirmed by Alberta Health Services to be linked to the Coalhurst Good News Centre church community. As Emily Olsen reports, Alberta Health is urging people not to shame or stigmatize individuals with COVID-19 or their close contacts.

The Good News Centre church in Coalhurst, Alta., is the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in Lethbridge county.

AHS officials confirmed to Global News on Wednesday afternoon that 23 cases of novel coronavirus are now linked to the outbreak and case identification is ongoing. 

Read more: Church community outbreak linked to COVID-19 spike in Lethbridge area: AHS

A Coalhurst resident with direct knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified spoke with Global News on Wednesday and said town staff have been directed not to speak about the outbreak. This person also indicated that some people in Coalhurst are concerned, after seeing church members who have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 still walking freely around town. 

Alberta Health would not comment directly on this outbreak, but did say in a statement that those with concerns can submit an official complaint. 

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“Anyone who is concerned someone is not following public health orders, can remind the person that not following public health orders is against the law and puts people at risk,” AHS said. “If needed, they can submit a complaint to AHS public health, who will follow up.

“We also remind all Albertans that individuals linked to outbreaks deserve our support and understanding. It is critical that we do not shame or stigmatize individuals with COVID-19 or their close contacts. COVID-19 is a reality for all of us.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Dr. Hinshaw offers warning about negative impact of shaming those with COVID-19

Minister Trevor Potter at McKillop United Church in Lethbridge says although he doesn’t condemn the decision of the Good News Centre to not speak about the outbreak, he would have been more open about one at his congregation.

“It can happen to any family, any church, any long-term care facility,” Potter said. “So we have to support each other, but we do need information that helps everybody in the community make informed decisions about their own safety and risk.”

He says it’s part of what he believes is a church’s responsibility to the larger community.

“We believe here at McKillop United Church if our Lethbridge community and southern Alberta community thrive, then we thrive,” Potter explained. “So it’s really important we look after each other right now.”

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Click to play video 'Dr. Hinshaw stresses importance of staying home when sick' Dr. Hinshaw stresses importance of staying home when sick
Dr. Hinshaw stresses importance of staying home when sick

Read more: COVID-19 outbreaks declared at Lethbridge daycare centre and seniors home

Global News connected with members of the Coalhurst Good News Centre on Wednesday but they declined to comment on the situation. 

A confirmed case of COVID-19 has also been identified at Coalhurst School. 

It’s not yet known whether it is connected to the church outbreak.