COVID-19 Outbreak Reported at Church Scrutinized For Violating Health Order

Social Media posts drew attention to potential violations at Hilltop Tabernacle in Chula Vista before the state and county loosened restrictions at churches on May 31

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Editor's Note: A day after NBC 7 reported this story, a third person was confirmed positive with COVID-19. The story has been edited to reflect the third case and that the county's health guidelines now consider the cases an outbreak.

A Chula Vista church under scrutiny for potential health order violations last month is now the focus of a county COVID-19 contact tracing investigation after three people connected to the church tested positive.

County Public Health officials are investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 at a church that was scrutinized last month for violating the Pubic Health Order to hold services.

Three people connected to Hilltop Tabernacle in Chula Vista have tested positive for COVID-19, which is considered an outbreak by county health guidelines.

Other members of the church are now under a contact tracing investigation by the county to determine if the disease spread amongst members.

On Monday, only two cases had been reported and it was not yet deemed an outbreak. The county Public Health Officer would not provide any specific details about the cases.

“It is our practice not to give out specific information about any outbreak, so what I can tell you is that we are investigating that particular situation. We do not yet consider this an outbreak,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, MD.

An outbreak, as defined by the County Department of Public Health, must include at least three cases.

Because the county is not providing any specific information, we do not know the date in which the virus was contracted, or how many people may have been in contact with those infected.

However, a source tells NBC 7, the cases currently under investigation happened before the state and county loosened restrictions at churches on May 31.

On May 10, a video posted to Hilltop Tabernacle’s YouTube page showed church members in close proximity and not wearing facial protection. They did not appear to be socially distanced. At the time, the mother of an elderly member voiced concern about her safety to NBC 7.

The church has since taken down it’s YouTube page, and any information about services on its website is password protected.

Chula Vista police say they were called to the church four times but either did not find a violation or chose to educate the pastor without issuing a citation.

The church’s pastor or anyone connected to Hilltop Tabernacle has not returned numerous messages left by phone, email, and social media.

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