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County: More than 80 St. Agnes parishioners test negative for COVID

St. Agnes Catholic Church in Lake Placid is using a large UV-C lamp that sterilizes the entire space. Similar technology is used in hospital surgery suites. In addition, each pew is hand-sanitized after each Mass. For Christmas, the church is requiring reservations for the 3, 5 and 9 p.m. Masses on Christmas Eve and the 10 a.m. on Christmas Day by calling 518-523-2200. (Provided photo — the Rev. John Yonkovig)

LAKE PLACID — Approximately 85 parishioners of St. Agnes Church who were tested at a drive-thru COVID-19 clinic last month have tested negative.

The clinic, a collaboration between the Essex County Health Department and Adirondack Health, was set up at the North Elba Show Grounds on Nov. 13 after one of the church’s parishioners tested positive for COVID-19. The parishioner had attended three Mass while asymptomatic before learning they were positive.

The health department conducted contact tracing within a few hours of the positive result — the church has required all those who attend Mass to sign in for contact tracing purposes, so the department worked off of that list — but the department ultimately decided to air on the side of caution and host a testing clinic for parishioners, too.

During a briefing before the Essex County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Public Health Director Linda Beers presented a timeline of pandemic-related actions the department has taken since March. On the timeline was the department’s response to the possible outbreak at St. Agnes — and the results of the testing clinic, which showed that at least 85 parishioners had tested negative.

“We’re very happy that’s the way it is, that people who were tested were negative,” said Father John Yonkovig.

Yonkovig said the parishioner who tested positive is still hospitalized, but he’s doing well, his voice is getting stronger and his breathing is getting better.

“There’s progress there,” he said.

The goal moving forward is to make parishioners feel as comfortable as possible, according to Yonkovig.

“We do try to keep the church as sanitized as possible,” he said. Both the church and St. Agnes School have been using UV lights to help sanitize.

Christmas Mass

For the first time ever, the church is asking parishioners to make a reservation in advance to attend the three upcoming Christmas Eve Mass at St. Agnes.

“For Christmas Eve, we thought to make people feel exceptionally safe, we decided to do a reservation system so there’s no threat of congestion or too large of a congregation,” Yonkovig said.

Those who want to attend must make a reservation by noon on Dec. 23 at 518-523-2200 or stagnesch@roadrunner.com.

Parishioners are asked to provide their last name, the number of people in their party and their phone number. There will be no Mass at St. Brendan’s in Keene.