This story was updated at 5:42 p.m. on Friday, March 13, 2020, to clarify that the churches will cancel all services.
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Faith leaders across the region canceled services in a wave of announcements Thursday night and Friday, bringing local houses of worship in step with the growing number of businesses, civic centers and schools that closed their doors over COVID-19 concerns.
Hamilton County reported its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus on Friday, the same day President Donald Trump declared a nationwide state of emergency over the global pandemic. Tennessee currently has 26 confirmed cases.
Following the announcement of the first local case, the Episcopal Church of East Tennessee released a statement saying Father Brad Whitaker, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Dindy Taylor, bishop of the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, announced each church in the Conference — a group of nearly 1,000 Methodist churches — will close for at least two weeks.
"The faith community has an important role to play in slowing the speed of disease transmission," Taylor said in a statement on Friday. "Large gatherings of people are a petri dish for spreading the infection."
B'nai Zion and Mizpah congregations canceled services until the end of March.
The same day Utah's governor appealed to churches and conferences to stop gatherings of more than 100 people, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to all its members announcing the decision to suspend services worldwide. As part of the decision, stake presidents throughout the world will decide how members of the local faithful will receive the sacrament.
Phil Smartt, spokesperson for the Chattanooga ward, said all worship services and meetings are canceled. Members at the Ooltewah gathering will not be taking the sacrament, he said.
"We've contacted all of our members by email so they will know," Smartt said.
The Southern Baptist Convention has not issued any declaration to member churches and is still planning its annual meeting in Orlando in June. However, each member church is allowed to make its own decision — for example Silverdale Baptist Church is closing services and Brainerd Baptist Church will remain open with some precautions.
Last week, the Diocese of Knoxville suspended the use of communion wine at services, which in the Catholic tradition is typically given by sharing a chalice. On Friday, Bishop Richard Stika said the diocese would not stop mass at any of its 51 parishes and mission churches. Meanwhile, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington suspended all public masses and Catholic churches in Rome were ordered closed as Italy deals with the increasing outbreak of the coronavirus.
The move by local houses of worship puts them with businesses and civic organizations across the city that shut down this week. Mayor Andy Berke announced Friday the city will suspend all event permits and stop public access at all Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Centers and Chattanooga Library branches, until further notice.