A COVID-19 public exposure notice has been issued for a large church in Moncton for its Easter Sunday service.
It comes just as more than 200 church-goers in Saint John have completed their self-isolation following a possible exposure to a COVID-19 variant during a Palm Sunday service.
Anyone who attended Moncton Wesleyan Church on April 4, between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., is asked to self-monitor for symptoms until April 18.
The Moncton sanctuary seats 1,850, but only 265 people attended the 9 a.m. service and 492 attended the 11 a.m. service — well below the 50 per cent allowed under provincial guidelines, according to a Facebook post by the church.
"The person who later tested positive was at the 11 a.m. service, and there is no knowledge of community spread at this time," the post issued on April 10 at about 8 p.m. states.
According to the Facebook post, only those who attended the 11 a.m. service have been asked, "out of an abundance of caution," to self-monitor.
"Masks were worn at all times, and distancing was ensured between each family group in our expansive facility with modern ventilation running at all times," it stated.
Although the church has the contact information of everyone who was in the building, at 945 St. George Blvd., on April 4, Public Health issued the public notice because the volume was too high to allow for timely contact with individuals, said Department of Health spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.
"The regional medical officer of health on call decided there were more than 400 attendees and the fastest way to reach them was a public exposure and correspondence to the church to distribute as well as post in the church rather than calling 400 people to advise them of a potential exposure," he said in an email.
A total of 20 potential COVID-19 public exposures were announced across the province over the weekend. In all instances, officials were either unable to determine exactly who may have been exposed to the virus in a given location, or the volume was too high to allow for timely contact, "prompting announcements to alert those who could have been affected and recommending they self-monitor for symptoms," Macfarlane said.
Jim Clements, executive pastor of Moncton Wesleyan Church, responded to an interview request Monday via email.
"We'd love to be helpful, but we really don't have any information concerning the provincial directives beyond our understanding outlined in the [April 10] notification," he wrote.
"The affected individual has not been disclosed to us by Public Health."
"The province has verified that we can continue to meet for in-person services Sundays at 10:30 a.m," the church's Facebook post states.
Meanwhile, Sunday at midnight marked the end of isolation for 209 parishioners of RiverCross Church in Saint John, said senior pastor Rob Nylen.
"To our knowledge, we've had no cases related to the exposure at our church," he said, adding he is "really grateful."
An adult and child from the same family who attended the March 28 service at the church in the city's north end tested positive, and "the exposure was likely a COVID-19 variant," Nylen had advised parishioners in an email on April 6.
They were told to self-isolate and get tested.
As far as he knows, no one else has tested positive.
Nylen said he's been overwhelmed by the support the church has had, both from within the congregation and from other churches in the area.
Churches are "trying to do the very best they can to be safe while at the same time provide spiritual care to people in a time when, you know, people are asking spiritual questions."
That's part of the reason the church has chosen to meet in-person since last July, despite also having a virtual option, he said.
"Part of caring for people is meeting the need for community. And we have folks from our congregation who do not have family in Saint John. This is their opportunity to be connected. I think the pandemic's raised all kinds of spiritual issues with people around hope and peace. And, you know, we're becoming more mindful that we're mortal. And so it's our opportunity to care for them.
"This is certainly something they're free to do. We're not, you know, making people come to the services. And we've tried to keep them as safe as we possibly can."