The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported Thursday that 91 of its 588 missionaries currently undergoing training at the Provo Missionary Training Center tested positive for the coronavirus this week.
All missionaries are required to be vaccinated upon arrival to the church’s flagship MTC, and testing is made available to them under the center’s COVID-19 protocols, according to a news release from church spokesperson Sam Penrod.
The 91 cases were discovered after several missionaries initially tested positive earlier this week, prompting the center to test all 588 missionaries for COVID-19.
The positive cases reported Thursday account for about 15% of missionaries currently at the Provo MTC. Penrod noted only a few who tested positive presented symptoms or reported feeling ill.
The Provo MTC, which resumed in-person training in June, “continues to operate at a reduced capacity,” according to the release, which noted that there are “ample facilities to isolate those who are negative and quarantine those who are positive.”
Though all arriving missionaries are required to be vaccinated, the church did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday about whether missionaries are required to receive a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
In the statement, Penrod said additional COVID-19 protocols are now in place for the MTC’s cafeteria and gym, and masks must be worn indoors during all classes, meetings and devotionals. Newly arriving missionaries also will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test when they report on Wednesdays.
Missionaries will not travel to their assigned missions unless they test negative for COVID-19 or have completed all necessary quarantine periods, Penrod noted.
The church announced in May that the Provo MTC would allow about 150 to 250 new missionaries each week, while facilities in Ghana and New Zealand would take about 50 missionaries each.
The church’s 10 MTCs, located from England to Mexico, shut down in-person classes in spring 2020 as a result of the pandemic. The prospective proselytizers, starting at age 18 for young men and 19 for young women, shifted to online, at-home learning experiences.
Before the coronavirus, Provo’s 35-acre MTC, where Latter-day Saints typically undergo intensive language study and gospel grounding before embarking on their volunteer service, was filled with 3,700 proselytizers-in-waiting learning more than 50 languages as well as how to present the faith to the world. It was expanded in 2017.