According to Page, Westmore has purchased masks for people to wear in the future. Despite the outbreak, there have been no deaths, although the pastor said that a few people from the church had to be hospitalized and he is “very concerned” about a couple.
Since closing again, the church has been holding online services only and plans to reconvene for worship on July 26. Upon its next reopening, Westmore is adding a weekly, medical grade sanitization and says that “face coverings will be strong encouraged.”
How the Outbreak at Westmore Has Been Reported
Page said that, as events have unfolded, he and Westmore have been attacked in the media and then questioned for not responding. The main reason he hasn’t responded, said the pastor, is because, “I had three people in my home who had the virus. And then it took them 10 days to get back test results…and so we locked down and they were very sick.” Page was the main caretaker for his wife and mother-in-law, who have since recovered, and then he became ill as well. “I wasn’t trying to hide,” he said. “I was sick.”
According to Page, another pastor at the church tried to give a “formal Westmore response” to all media outlets regarding the situation, but some outlets chose to put their own twist on the church’s actions. “For the Chattanooga Times in particular, that wasn’t good enough,” said Page. He accused the paper of publishing a narrative “fully equipped with spin and rushed judgments,” saying that reporters “twisted comments” he made while preaching and made him sound like “an imbalanced televangelist type, a revved up revivalist that was careless.”
While he believes the paper needs to be held accountable, Page said he is willing to own up to his failings: “The fact is I did miss it on Father’s Day, and I take ownership for that. I hate that. I missed it, and I hate that I did not read that uptick properly…I’m sorry.” Hearing about some of the church’s elderly being hospitalized while he himself was sick was “frankly almost more than I could take.”
Page believes that even though there is a lot of speculation and ignorance about the nature of COVID-19, it is important for people to listen to one another. This is the mindset Westmore will have moving forward. “We’re going to learn,” said the pastor. “We’re going to listen. We’re going to try our best to learn and respond. But we’re also going to move forward in his grace.”