MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Thirteen members of 3Circle Church campuses in Mobile and Baldwin Counties are quarantined in a Bethlehem hotel as fears over the coronavirus grow. Pastor Chris Bell says they have been quarantined in the Angel Hotel for two days and have yet to get assistance from the US Embassy.
“We were having the trip of a lifetime,” said Bell.
Bell says the group left on a flight Sunday. At one point they stayed at the Angel Hotel in Bethlehem and then left for the next leg of their journey. Bell says their tour bus was informed that a Greek tourist and some hotel workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Bell said local authorities advised them to return to the hotel and stay there.
“Assuming its an official quarantine, they told us to come to the hotel and we’re quarantining here. None of our group is showing any symptoms of anything,” said Bell.
The group has been told they will have to wait 14 days before they can cross the border back into Israel where they can fly home.
“The tough thing is, is just not knowing. Not knowing what’s next. We’ve been told a 14-day quarantine here, but again, nothing has been official. So we’re hoping that starting two days ago, that our 14 days have started,” said Bell.
The group has been told not to leave their rooms, they have been in the hotel for two days now.
“Instead of thinking the next week, we’re thinking this afternoon, let’s get through that. Let’s get through tonight. Let’s get through tomorrow morning,” said Bell.
Their spirits are high, despite the frustration.
“My hands are pretty clean right now. Never been cleaner. And our rooms have been disinfected,” said Bell.
They say the local government and hotel has been making sure they are taken care of, but they are still longing for the comforts of home.
“I can’t wait to see my children’s faces, I can’t wait to see Fairhope, Alabama, again, my home. I will never take highway 98 for granted ever again,” said Bell.
It’s not clear when the group could leave the hotel and Bell says they’ve had difficulty getting assistance from the US Embassy. He says none of their group, so far, has tested positive for the illness.
“We don’t want to be ungrateful, but we are frustrated, there’s no question. We want someone to put us on a plane and send us home,” said Bell.
Here’s a full statement from the 3Cirlce Church:
Beginning on March 1, 3Circle Church sent a team, along with the lead pastor, executive team, and other key staff members, on a tour to visit the Holy Land sites. The team landed in Israel on March 3, staying at a local hotel in Bethlehem. Late evening, on March 4, the team received news from the hotel that the previous week a Greek tourist, who had stayed at the hotel, tested positive for the coronavirus in his home country of Greece. Taking precautions, the hotel was notified to send all guests away the following morning. So, the team left the hotel early morning on March 5. While on the road, they were called back by the hotel to be tested for the virus, as an employee of the hotel had just tested positive.
After reaching out to the U.S. Embassy, the team was advised to go back to the hotel in Bethlehem to be tested for the virus. At the hotel, the team was told they could not be in the hotel, because it had not been cleansed of the virus. The team was, then, sent to a friend’s home in Bethlehem where they stayed for several hours without clear instruction or any virus testing. Later that evening, the local Bethlehem authorities came to the home, being very helpful, and told the team to go back to the hotel to be quarantined for 14 days and to await testing.
Now, the team of 13 3Circle Church staff members and employees of the hotel are in an unexplained quarantine at the hotel until further notice. So far, 7 hotel employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. The 3Circle team has yet to be tested in any way. They are advised to stay in separate rooms until further instruction.3Circle Church