It was revealed on Wednesday that at least five members of the choir and orchestra of First Baptist Dallas tested positive for COVID-19. BuzzFeed News first reported the outbreak among members of the megachurch that was visited by Vice President Mike Pence this past Sunday. A sixth member of the orchestra exhibited symptoms of the virus and was tested in mid-June, according to a call for prayers sent to the church's musicians and uncovered by BuzzFeed.
On June 30, Jarrod Blackstock, a music director and the associate minister of worship who plays trumpet in the orchestra, wrote a message in a private Facebook group for the choir and orchestra voicing his support for the performance while lamenting that he was not able to attend because he had the virus.
"Some of you may know but I've been in quarantine since June 14 after several exposures. I was tested and it came back positive for the virus. I thought Freedom Sunday was a great day. Everyone who participated did an excellent job! I'm sorry that I wasn't there and hated to miss it."
While neither Blackrock nor the other five performed for the vice president during Pence's hour-and-a-half-long visit to the church, it was not made clear if the choir and orchestra members in attendance had come in contact with those infected at previous practices and performances.
Pence attended what was referred to as a "Freedom Sunday" service by the church, which was billed as a combination of a religious gathering and a political rally. The event was organized by Pastor Robert Jeffress, who is a member of President Donald Trump's White House Faith Initiative and a contributor to Fox News. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was also in attendance.Pence also addressed the congregants in attendance, many of whom did not wear a mask.
"With this governor and this president, we'll bring Texas and America back bigger and better than ever before. Working with your governor, we will put the health of the people of the Lone Star State first."
Health officials have warned that the manner in which the coronavirus is spread makes indoor singing or use of wind instruments in large groups particularly risky. The choir wore masks when not performing, but removed them when it was time to sing for Pence.
On the Monday following "Freedom Sunday," the Texas Department of State Health Services reported that the state had more than 5,900 COVID-19 hospitalizations, the highest number ever recorded. Dallas also recorded a record high in new infections.