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Sacramento teacher who died was one of five church members to test positive for coronavirus

The church has since began having services online, and will not open again until at least April 3, church officials said.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — The Sacramento substitute teacher who died Sunday from the coronavirus was one of five parishioners from a Greenhaven-area church that have reportedly tested positive for the virus, church officials reported.

Officials with Faith Presbyterian Church Sacramento posted to the church’s website saying they are awaiting for test results for many of their parishioners who were exposed to COVID-19 before the church closed its doors indefinitely on March 12.

The church has since began having services online, and will not open again until at least April 3, officials said.

First Presbyterian Church’s Pastor Jeff Chapman addressed the five cases in a Youtube video, including the death of the woman he identified as Gayle Alexis.

RELATED: Sacramento substitute teacher dies from coronavirus, district confirms

"I ask that you pray particularly for her family at this time, and for her life group and for those who knew and loved her most and best," Chapman said in the video. "Along with all of those not just within our church but in our whole city and country and world who are suffering and are struggling and who are afraid."

Richard and Sam Matsunaga knew Alexis for years having attended the same church together. Sam said she's attended Faith Presbyterian Church for 18 years.

The Matsunagas said Alexis was a "wonderful person" who had a sense of humor and was talented in playing the piano.

“Once we found out that we lost one of our parishioners, it brought everything so close to home," Richard said. "In lots of instances, you think it's going to happen somewhere else, but once it gets this close to your community, reality sets in quickly."

The Sacramento City Unified School District announced last week that one of its volunteer teachers at Sutterville Elementary School tested positive for the virus known as COVID-19. On Sunday, the district announced that she died.

The Sacramento County Health Department reported earlier Monday that the teacher was the county's second person to die from coronavirus. Both people who have died in Sacramento County were older than 70 with underlying health conditions, health officials said. There have been 40 confirmed cases of the virus in Sacramento County.

RELATED: Coronavirus Resources: A guide to help you and your family

Sacramento County last week announced that all school districts would be closing campuses for at least three weeks beginning March 16. The closures came as local, state and federal officials continue to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said that the state’s school closures could last well into the summer. 

The closures affect nearly 250,000 students who attend Sacramento County schools, including the about 64,000 students in Elk Grove Unified School District, the largest district in Northern California.

"The passing of an educator due to COVID-19 is tragic," Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a statement on Monday. "While our community steps up to meet the challenge of this public health crisis, I agree with our districts’ decision to temporarily close schools across Sacramento County to slow the spread of COVID-19. This is one of many steps that public health leaders are recommending, and I commend everyone in our city and county who are working together to meet this challenge with resolve."

CORONAVIRUS BACKGROUND

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask. The CDC says the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low.

ABC10's Kevin John contributed to this story.

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