Some bishops, deputies report testing positive for COVID-19 after 81st General Convention

By ENS staff
Posted Jul 3, 2024

[Episcopal News Service] It was the first post-pandemic General Convention, but COVID-19 was still spreading last month when bishops and deputies gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, for the triennial churchwide gathering.

Several bishops and an unconfirmed number of deputies tested positive during or after their participation in the 81st General Convention, the first such large gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the church in 2022 to plan a shorter four-day General Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. That gathering two years ago featured limited attendance, restrictions on interactions and additional precautions, such as mandatory masking and testing. This year, church leaders – acting on information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – chose not to maintain the same restrictions and precaution in Louisville, now that the public health emergency has subsided.

“The Joint Standing Committee on Planning and Arrangements made decisions for the [2024] gathering in accordance with the CDC’s current advice on COVID,” the church’s Office of Public Affairs said in response to an inquiry from Episcopal News Service. “While we are unable to confirm counts of COVID cases posted on social media, our prayers are with all those who are now feeling unwell.”

The World Health Organization announced the official end of the pandemic emergency in May 2023, and though COVID-19 infections have continued to spread, the CDC no longer recommends precautions like the ones The Episcopal Church implemented in 2022.

About 1,200 or so bishops, deputies, staff members and volunteers had traveled to Baltimore in 2022 for the 80th General Convention. A week after that convention, church officials said at least 32 people had tested positive, and more were thought to have been infected without reporting their cases.

Two years later, the 81st General Convention was expected to bring up to 10,000 people to Louisville for the June 23-28 legislative sessions and for several days more of pre-convention meetings and events. Some wore masks, though the majority did not. The church did not request attendees test for COVID-19 or report infections, though some conventiongoers have been posting to social media about falling ill or know others who got sick.

The House of Deputies sent a message to its members after the convention with a health notice.

“In the days after the conclusion of the General Convention, we have been informed that several attendees from the recent General Convention have tested positive for COVID-19,” the message to deputies said. “In light of this, we strongly recommend that all General Convention participants review the Center for Disease Control’s most recent guidelines … and confer with their medical professional.”

West Missouri Bishop Provisional Diane Jardine Bruce reported a runny nose, sinus and eye aches but no fever on June 30 and canceled her Sunday visitation.

“Praying for all those who, like me, were infected with COVID at the General Convention,” she wrote on Facebook. On July 2, she reported feeling better but that she was still taking meetings for home.

Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall also posted a positive result on Facebook on July 1.

“Well, add me to those who left General Convention with more than a love of Jesus and the children of God. Feeling better than yesterday actually (when I tested negative) so hoping this passes quickly,” Reddall said.