As the coronavirus gets a toehold in Coachella Valley, churches are preparing to cancel in-person worship services beyond a single Sunday and move them online.

A vendor who contracted work at a Rancho Mirage skilled nursing facility has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). The female employee is in her 30s and is in self-isolation at home. She is expected to recover.

“Unfortunately, as testing expands, so will the number of positive cases,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer. “We are working diligently to ensure those who may have been exposed are taken care of, but we know COVID-19 is present in the community, and there will be more cases.”

This is the second case of COVID-19 found at the Rancho Mirage Health and Rehabilitation Center. Riverside County Public Health immediately tested 140 employees and vendors, as well as 94 residents after the first case of COVID-19 was found in a former facility resident. Sadly, the former skilled nursing facility resident died earlier this week.

“Since the contracted vendor’s diagnosis, we have been in daily communication with her employer about her overall health,” said Staci Trang, risk management representative with the facility. “We have been told that she is in good spirits. We wish her a speedy recovery.”

Test results from the facility are continuing to come in.

Riverside County has six additional cases, including the employee from the skilled nursing facility. This brings the total number of cases in Riverside County to 22.  Thirteen cases are in the Coachella Valley, four in western Riverside County, three in southwestern Riverside County and two from the Diamond Princess cruise. These are the first cases announced in southwestern Riverside County.

It is against this backdrop that churches are making decisions.

Churches Prepare for Additional Online ServicesAs Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser Tweet on March 14, churches are part of the mass gathering cancellation order issued Thursday, March 12.

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert has suspended in-person worship services through April, according to its website. ​During this time, the church will live stream its Sunday service. Parishioners are encouraged to join worship on Facebook Live on Sundays at 9 a.m.

Hope Lutheran Church in Palm Desert is canceling all physical gatherings its campus until March 31.

Hope Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley’s newest church, falls under an emergency order that took effect March 18 that advises all residents to shelter-in-place and limit activities to only those essential to their daily lives. The order remains in effect until April 2nd when an extension will be considered.

The church will hold online worship services.

A spokeswoman at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, and one of the Valley’s largest churches, said Thursday no decision has yet been made as to how long physical worship services will be postponed.


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