Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the updated numbers of confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases associated with AWM’s Family Summer Bible Conference.
Despite their social distancing and sanitizing efforts, just three days after Andrew Wommack Ministry’s Family Summer Bible Conference and July 4th celebration concluded, the ministry learned that several people who attended the conference tested positive for COVID-19. The ministry has been added to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) outbreak list. As of Wednesday, July 22, seven staff members and 15 attendees have tested positive for COVID-19. Another 12 people are “probable” cases.
“On Friday July 10, AWM distributed a letter provided by public health officials to all conference attendees providing information about COVID-19,” a statement from Andrew Wommack Ministries (AWM) reads.
According to a post on AWM’s Facebook page, as many as 1,000 adults and children attended the ministry’s Family Summer Bible Conference and 4th of July follow up event, which was held June 30th – July 4th. The Woodland Park, Colorado-based ministry had been in communication with Teller County officials prior to the event and had been approved to host a maximum of 175 people. According to the ministry, the cap on the number of people allowed inside its Charis Bible College auditorium was the only stipulation it violated.
AMW says they practiced a number of safety protocols during the conference including having guests sit in family member groups with two seats between each group and every other row of the auditorium being roped off. Staff (who were wearing masks and gloves) also disinfected the sanctuary between sessions. A number of other social distancing protocols were in place as well, per the county’s instructions.
However, AWM was issued a cease and desist order from Colorado’s Attorney General’s office because they failed to adhere to the 175-person cap. AWM is fighting the cease and desist order with the help of Liberty Counsel. The ministry feels it was treated in a discriminatory manner when it was issued the order even while the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, allegedly did nothing to stop protestors from congregating in the state’s capital.
Andrew Wommack Ministries Takes Issue With Outbreak Label
In response to several questions ChurchLeaders asked about the outbreak, AWM wrote: “The County’s decision to label AWM as an ‘outbreak’ location, without more facts, is confusing to the public.” The statement goes on to say, “The facts known at this time do not show that the handful of people who tested positive acquired COVID-19 at AWM’s facility.”
On a website listing outbreak sites in Colorado, CDPHE explains that it’s rare to be able to prove where a person was first exposed to the virus:
It is possible that a person may have been exposed elsewhere (and we can rarely prove where any individual was exposed with a person-to-person pathogen), but when a person worked/lived/spent time in a facility with a known outbreak, we attribute their illness to the outbreak even if there is no definitive determination that the case acquired the illness at the facility. This approach is consistent across all outbreak types.
An outbreak is defined as “Two or more Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a facility or (non-household) group with onset in a 14 day period.” More than anything, the list exists to inform those who have attended a public event that they may have been exposed to the virus (regardless of where the infected might have picked up the virus originally).
Still, AWM wants to make it known that cases in Teller County were already increasing before the ministry held its conference:
Furthermore, AWM’s Summer Family Bible Conference was not the primary source of tourists in Teller County over the week of July 4. During the summer months, it has been estimated by both the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce and the Teller County Sheriff’s office that between 20,000-50,000 tourists and campers are present in Teller County on any given summer weekend. Additionally, Teller County health officials confirmed that the number of local COVID-19 cases were already increasing before the Summer Family Bible Conference ever occurred.
Future Events Have Been Altered
The confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with the ministry have already altered its event scheduled. A Kingdom Youth Conference which was scheduled to be held at the same location as the Summer Bible Family Conference July 10th and 11th was moved to a different location. AWM’s upcoming “Healing Is Here” conference, scheduled for August 11th to 14th and originally planned as an in-person event, will now be moved online.
Additionally, the outbreak has affected staff working on-site. “The Ministry continues to implement extensive health precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks, temperature checks, as well as sanitizing the facilities multiple times each day, which have been in force since March 16,” the statement reads. Non-essential staff are also working from home at this time.
These measures, according to AWM, are all in alignment with a desire to go “above and beyond normal requirements for places of public gatherings” in an attempt to “protect the health and welfare of the community.”