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D.C. priest who distributed communion to hundreds tests positive for coronavirus

Church officials said the priest appeared healthy when he partook in church activities at the beginning of the month.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference to announce the first presumptive positive case of the coronavirus, technically known as COVID-19, in Washington, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a news conference to announce the first presumptive positive case of the coronavirus, technically known as COVID-19, in Washington, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [ PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP ]
Published Mar. 9, 2020|Updated Mar. 9, 2020

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A Washington, D.C., priest who hosted services as recently as March 1 tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, according to the Washington Post.

Visitors to Christ Church in Georgetown could have been exposed to the virus, the district’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, said in a news conference Monday.

Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector at the church, is the city’s first presumptive positive for the coronavirus.

Cole oversaw three services that were attended by about 550 people, according to the Post. Though it’s still unclear how many of those made direct contact with him, church officials said he shook parishioners’ hands and provided communion at the 11:15 a.m. services on March 1.

“We recognize this situation is fluid," Bowser said during the news conference. “We put the safety of residents first. We are following the science about how we will proceed.”

Bowser encouraged anyone who visited the church on Feb. 24 and between Feb. 28-March 3 to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The church announced on Monday that it has suspended all services and activities until further notice.

Cole had not traveled internationally recently and first fell ill after returning from a Feb. 22 conference of Episcopal leaders in Louisville, according to The Post.

Cole released a statement on Monday.

“As we said before, we did not make the decision to close our doors lightly, but out of an abundance of caution for the most vulnerable among us,” Cole said. “There is no need to panic. Following sensible precautions provided by the CDC will go a long way towards ensuring the good health of our community.”

Cole also used the statement to confirm that he was the first patient in D.C. to be diagnosed with coronavirus. He will be quarantined for at least 14 days.

“I can now confirm that I am the individual who tested positive for the coronavirus,” he said.

He added that he will “be okay” and is “receiving excellent care."

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