A 61-year-old woman who is a parishioner at the church tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday after returning from a cruise, according to Rocky Bayou Baptist Senior Pastor Troy Hamilton.

NICEVILLE — Several members of Rocky Bayou Baptist Church have been asked to self quarantine themselves after coming into close contact with a woman later diagnosed with coronavirus.


A 61-year-old woman who is a parishioner at the church tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday after returning from a cruise, according to Rocky Bayou Baptist Senior Pastor Troy Hamilton.



"Several" fellow church members, those who had been within 6 to 10 feet of the woman, have been asked to quarantine themselves for a period of 14 days, Hamilton said.


Hamilton said the first question asked of the state Health Department after church administrators learned of the positive test was whether services could be held the next day.


"They gave us a green light to continue to meet as normal," he said.


In an abundance of caution, the church has canceled Sunday School, children, youth and adult ministry programs and its AWANA group meetings for the next two weeks, Hamilton said. Sunday services will be held, as usual, at 10:15 a.m., Sunday.



"God willing this is the end of it," Hamilton said.


Rocky Bayou Baptist Church is just down the road from Rocky Bayou Christian School, which closed its doors this week, also due to coronavirus fears.


"Our campus is closed through spring break. We will resume classes on Monday, 03/23," a sign on the door of the deserted campus’s office said.


Niceville City Manager Lannie Corbin was aware of the positive coronavirus diagnosis in the city and said he was alerted Monday that the husband of a part-time city employee had been in direct contact with the infected woman.


He said he had instructed the employee to remain at home until he could arrange a meeting with the Health Department to speak to all Niceville employees.


Corbin said a phone call from the newspaper was the only one he’d received Monday concerning coronavirus. And Jen Reynolds, who works at a Tom Thumb not far from Rocky Bayou Christian School, said the only person she’d heard talking about coronavirus was a television reporter who’d stopped by.



Niceville High School was in session Monday and the baseball and track teams were practicing afterward. Steve Horton, the spokesman for the Okaloosa County School District, said absences had spiked from 112 to 139 when compared to last year in March on a Monday.


Using the same matrix, Ruckel Middle School absences had risen from 33 to 69, Bluewater Elementary School from 33 to 69, Edge Elementary from 26 to 38 and Lewis School from 39 to 50.


All schools still recorded attendance in the 90-plus percentile, Horton said, and at Plew Elementary absences actually dropped from 69 to 49.


"I expect that absences could increase if more COVID-19 cases are identified in Okaloosa County," Horton said in a text.


And though the city did not look to have lost any of its weekday bustle Monday, it appeared people were paying attention to the arrival of the virus.


A stock boy at the Niceville Walmart had his hands full reloading racks where rolls of toilet paper had once been.


"They’re scared of something," he mumbled.


Security officers were posted outside the emergency room at Twin Cities Hospital Monday, as per protocol, to ask those entering questions to ensure they had not been exposed to the coronovirus.


One of the guards assured a reporter that no one with coronavirus has been admitted to the hospital.


Denise Kendust, spokeswoman for Twin Cities Hospital and Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, said no infected patients had been placed at either hospital.


She said the Health Department is making the decisions on where patients who have tested positive are being treated. Dr. Karen Chapman, the head of the Okaloosa County branch of the Health Department, did not return a Monday phone call.


Eighteen people in Florida have now been diagnosed with the disease, including 17 Florida residents. Two of those diagnosed have died.


The Niceville woman is the only one thus far diagnosed with the disease in Okaloosa County. A resident of Santa Rosa County is among those who have died.


After the scare at their church Pastor Hawthorne said his parishioners are adjusting to life in a coronavirus age, exchanging fist bumps rather than shaking hands and praying for those who have contracted the disease and those working to cure them.


He said he’s urging his membership not to forget their fellow church goers and to do little things, like leave meals on the front porch for them during their time in quarantine.