Atlanta pastor amid coronavirus outbreak: ‘Please skip church’ if sick

Atlanta pastor amid coronavirus outbreak: ‘Please skip church’ if sick
When Andy Stanley delivers the sermon at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, his words are heard not only by the 4,700 or so parishioners in the sanctuary, but by tens of thousands of others who watch a real-time videocast at four other campuses. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Atlanta pastor Andy Stanley has asked an unprecedented favor of people in his congregation: “Please skip church.”

Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, Decatur City Church and several others, sent a letter to congregants Friday titled “Permission to stay home!”

Stanley said as concerns grow around the spread of the coronavirus, he’s asking anyone who has traveled to affected countries, been exposed to someone with the flu or who feels sick themselves to stay home from church.

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“If you’ve been exposed to a person with the coronavirus or the flu or have recently traveled to a CDC Level 2 or 3 country (China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Hong Kong, or Japan), please take a couple of Sundays off. If you or your family members are experiencing or have recently experienced symptoms associated with the flu or the common cold (fever, persistent cough, headache, chills, or unexplained rash), we ask that you take a couple of Sundays off as well,” Stanley said in his email.

He said the staff and volunteers are taking the following steps to make sure the churches are clean and safe for everyone who attends.

  • Staff and volunteers follow hand-washing procedures, and children are instructed to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating.
  • Volunteers follow posted safe and sanitary diaper-changing procedures.
  • Hand sanitizer is located throughout the building.
  • Staff remove children from the classroom if they appear to be sick. Parents are immediately paged to pick them up.

So far, two cases and a possible third case of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Georgia. Two of those are in Fulton County, and one is in Floyd County. The individuals are all quarantined.