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Coronavirus pushes Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church to cancel services

Shawn M. Carter

Pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston is canceling its Sunday gatherings this weekend, saying it will broadcast its service online only.

The church, considered one of the largest in the U.S. with a seating capacity of nearly 17,000, announced the decision Thursday after the city of Houston declared a public health emergency.

There are more than 1,300 cases of coronavirus in the United States, including at least 21 in Texas.

A TMZ report Wednesday said the church was at the time planning to go ahead with three upcoming services: one Saturday night and two on Sunday. Church staff members were taking precautions, including sanitizing surfaces and leaving doors open so guests wouldn't need to grab them, according to the report.

Other events in the city, including the Houston Rodeo, have been scrapped due to the pandemic.

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Since initial reports of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, the virus has spread to a number of new locations, infecting more than 124,000 people and being linked to at least 4,600 deaths.

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A number of domestic businesses have advised employees to avoid non-essential travel and a handful of outdoor festivals like Coachella have been pushed back or canceled due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, which can spread through close contact.

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