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2nd Latter-day Saint missionary tests positive for COVID-19, church braces for more cases

FILE — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church Office Building in Salt Lake City is pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A young female missionary in Australia has tested positive for COVID-19, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expects more cases among its missionaries, according to a statement.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses throughout the world, we recognize that additional missionaries will unfortunately contract the virus,” church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said in an email sent to media.

The sister missionary is in self-isolation at home, he added. She is the second missionary the church has confirmed to have a positive test for the virus.

On Friday, the church said a young Guatemalan missionary in Mexico City was the first missionary with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

“We are concerned about any missionary who contracts the virus and will work to help them receive appropriate care,” Woodruff said. “Gratefully, young missionaries are not generally considered to be at high risk of complications from the illness.”

The spokesman also announced a new church policy regarding future positive tests in its mission program.

“As we move forward, the church will not provide public details about each individual case of COVID-19, but instead will rely on public health agencies and individuals to make the required notifications,” he said. “We continue to pray for all people affected by this pandemic, and we plead with the Lord to provide relief and peace at this uncertain time.”

The church had 67,000 missionaries serving worldwide at the start of the pandemic. Since then, it has sent tens of thousands back to their home countries and released many from service early. They all were instructed to self-isolate at home. Those not released from service are being reassigned to missions in their home countries when they finish their isolation.

“The possible time between exposure to the virus and showing symptoms makes it difficult to determine the exact source of exposure,” Woodruff said of the Australian woman. “This same difficulty is faced by people and public health professionals everywhere. However, in each case, we will follow established guidelines from public health agencies to notify anyone with whom the missionary might have come in contact and continue to encourage missionaries and those they live with to undergo strict self-isolation.”