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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / St. Paul's Episcopal Church is seen on Friday, March 13, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As the religion reporter for the Times Free Press, I figured my coverage of COVID-19 would amount to mostly church closings and the impact on faith-based ministries in the city.

All that changed Friday when we reported the first Hamilton County case of the new coronavirus was the pastor of a prominent downtown church. In the days since we broke that story, the Times Free Press worked to assemble a timeline of events where people could have been exposed to the virus.

As part of covering that story, we verified how many people were at each event. We did this not to create unnecessary fear but to convey the potential impact this case could have on our area. While our newsroom investigates tips from readers like you, we are being diligent to not spread rumors. Everything we report — from our coverage last weekend to the days and weeks that will follow — is based on what we can confirm.

Please stay with us as our city, county and country continues to grapple with this virus. While we may be the ones writing the stories, we require your help to ensure the public stays informed with facts not fear. Please reach out to me at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249 with any questions, concerns or tips.

— Wyatt Massey, faith and religion reporter

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