Covid-19

‘Your Virus Could Be Someone's Death': Former Member Says of Outbreak at Church

A Chula Vista church is under investigation for an outbreak of COVID-19 and a former member is now speaking out

Exterior of Hilltop Tabernacle Church in Chula Vista

The San Diego County Public Health Department has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at a Chula Vista church, stating that four people connected to the church have tested positive for the disease.

Meanwhile, a former member of Hilltop Tabernacle is asking the church to do more to notify it’s members about the outbreak.

“I just want them to please call, communicate to anyone, and help with this,” said Maria Elena Ruth.

"Your Virus Could Be Someone's Death."

Ruth says current members, including her family, are not being told about the COVID-19 outbreak at the church.

“It’s not a religious thing, it’s a virus thing and we are worried that because of lack of knowledge that they are not taking measures to protect themselves, the public and their families,” said Ruth.

Ruth is the third person with a family member attending Hilltop Tabernacle to reach out to NBC 7 with serious public health concerns.

The church came under scrutiny in May when video on its YouTube page showed members not wearing face masks. Others did not appear to be social distancing.

The church’s YouTube page has since been taken down but other social media posts show the church continuing to host events with groups of people in close proximity.

Pastor Joel Buxton has not responded to repeated requests for comment. However, an Instagram post dated May 22 says “Plan has not changed, no interviews and just keep having church.”

Ruth says the charismatic pastor is telling its members to put their faith in God.

“It’s a guilt trip or something that you need to come to church or you’re showing lack of faith and you need to prove it by showing up,” said Ruth.

Another relative of a family member said a service scheduled for last Tuesday was canceled. NBC 7 has not been able to confirm the cancellation and whether it was related to the confirmed outbreak at the church.

“I beg, I beg, these are human beings waiting for guidance.  Please inform your members of the potential outbreak at the church,” said Ruth.

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