In a long Facebook post, the Rev. Mark Palenske also described nausea, aches and fatigue he suffered along with his wife, Dena.
“When something like this [COVID]-19 virus touches the other side of the world, your first inclination is to assume that time and distance are on your side. That false assumption caught up with Dena and I this past week,” he wrote.
Palenske also thanked his supporters and medical workers, and urged unity and compassion among his fellow citizens amid the outbreak.
“First of all, your prayers for Dena and I, our church, our community and our country are much appreciated,” Palenske wrote. “Secondly, I would love to have you take this medical threat more seriously.”
Thirty-four people contracted the virus after attending an event at Palenske’s church earlier this month, Donald Shipp, of First Assemblies of God Church in Greers Ferry, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday. Other visitors were still awaiting test results.
In his post, Palenske said he initially struggled to get tested for COVID-19 before more than two dozen people linked to the church were found to have the illness.
“We were definitely sick, but the testing was not available,” he wrote. “Not for us, and not for dozens in the church.”
Palenske said he “pushed the envelope” and eventually found a doctor who had a few commercial tests.
The pastor also urged his followers to heed the instructions of health authorities on social distancing and hand-washing.
“We must keep the affected population to as a low a number as possible,” he wrote. “Our singular act of stubborn independence can have far-reaching effects on someone else’s life.”
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying home if you are sick except to get medical care, keeping your hands and frequently-used surfaces clean, and covering coughs and sneezes.
Palenske also asked his followers to pray for the medical personnel treating people who have contracted the coronavirus.
“I remember the two nurses who met us out in the parking lot the day that we were tested,” he said. “Their world changed in a single moment, and they stood tall to the challenge… They are doing their best, not only to help us return to our lives and our families, but to help them return to theirs, as well.”