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Dallas-area Pastor Jack Graham opts not to follow CDC guidelines in wake of Rose Garden COVID exposure

Updated Oct. 5 at 8:15 p.m. to include additional information.

WASHINGTON — Dallas-area megachurch Pastor Jack Graham has declined to follow medical guidelines despite being in close contact with people who have since tested positive for the coronavirus after a Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony, telling his congregation, “I am ridiculously healthy.”

The 70-year-old leader of Prestonwood Baptist Church attended the ceremony at the White House where President Donald Trump formally announced his nomination of conservative Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Since the event, at least 10 attendees have tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was photographed sitting directly behind Graham. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., was sitting next to Graham and also later tested positive.

Graham, Laurie and Christie were among the vast majority of people not wearing a mask at the event.

Robert Morris, the senior pastor at Gateway Church in Southlake, was photographed at the Rose Garden ceremony without a mask. He was seated directly behind Notre Dame President John Jenkins, who was also unmasked and later tested positive for the virus.

A spokesperson for the church declined to comment on if Morris had been tested for the virus and was quarantining following his exposure.

A maskless Graham led his church’s service on Sunday and was photographed having a conversation with several worshippers afterward by a member of his congregation. Graham was not wearing a mask in the photo that was shared with The Dallas Morning News.

Doctors look at a lung CT image at a hospital in Xiaogan,China.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone exposed to someone who tests positive for the virus quarantine for at least 14 days following the exposure and maintain six feet of social distance from others.

“I am ridiculously healthy, let’s just put it that way,” Graham said during the service. “I’m not sick, I’m fine. … I don’t have COVID, let’s just put it that way, and I’m grateful for that.”

The CDC says symptoms of COVID-19 may appear two to 14 days after an exposure to someone infected with the virus, hence the quarantine recommendation. The Rose Garden event is still well-within that 14 day period.

A quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been infected with COVID-19 away from others to help “prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms,” according to the CDC.

People exposed to the virus can test negative before later testing positive.

Christie said he had tested negative last Tuesday ahead of the presidential debate but then tested positive on Friday. Christie was hospitalized Sunday as a precaution, he tweeted.

Graham addressed the concerns in a statement Monday but ignored questions about when his most recent test for the virus was and if he intends to quarantine for the remainder of the 14 day period since his exposure.

“As I mentioned during our weekend services, thankfully, I do not have COVID,” Graham said. “I continue to pray for healing for President Trump and the First Lady and everyone who is suffering from this worldwide pandemic.”

Additionally, Graham said during the service that he flew to Atlanta on Wednesday to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, again flouting CDC recommendations on travel for someone exposed to the virus.

Pence tested negative for the virus Friday, according to a memo from White House physician Jesse Schonau. CBS News confirmed that Pence again tested negative Monday.

The vice president’s staff said anyone who comes in contact with Pence is tested for the virus prior to their interaction.

The Rose Garden event was attended by members of Trump’s evangelical advisory board and other faith leaders.

Earlier that day, Graham participated in the National Prayer March — a crowded event that featured thousands of people, few whom were wearing masks.

Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship was also the march and is quarantining with his family at home following his positive test, according to New York Magazine.

Last week, a spokesman for march and Rose Garden attendee Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelical leader Billy Graham, said he recently tested negative for the virus prior to a trip to Alaska.

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