A pastor in the US state of Idaho, who was criticised for holding in-person services and expressing doubts about the efficacy of mask-wearing during his sermons, is in the ICU after contracting the coronavirus infection, CNN reported.
Paul Van Noy, a senior pastor at Candlelight Church in Coeur d’Alene, has spent the last two weeks in hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, ministry coordinator Eric Reade told CNN.
At least five other members of the church’s staff, as well as the pastor’s wife, were also infected by the deadly virus, Reade said, adding that they have now recovered.
In a press release put out by the church, the pastor said, “Having been in the ICU now for 11 days…and counting, I am really starting to turn the corner—for the better. They tell me it will be a few more days in ICU and then I will move back to a regular room for a couple of days and then to recover at home.”
“At present I feel ok but still need quite a bit of oxygen support—especially if and when I try to get up out of the bed,” he added.
While the church remained shut for around two weeks in March, it reopened in early May for all 1,200 of its members, the report said.
During a service conducted in July, Van Noy said that he did not mind other people wearing masks but does not “want to be told” that he needs to wear one.
In a Facebook post shared in the same month, the pastor urged members of his church to not fear “the cause or effect of Covid-19”, and claimed that wearing a mask does not really prevent the transmission of the illness.
“We will not close down our church, we will not stop singing praises to the Lord, and we will not be required to wear masks or refrain from allowing those who wish to wear one the opportunity,” his post read.
In one of his sermons, the pastor said that he would not comply if city officials asked him to stop in-person services. Meanwhile, Sunday services continue to take place at the church every week, despite a steep rise in Covid-19 cases across the state.
Ministry coordinator Eric Reade clarified that while the church did not make it mandatory for parishioners to wear a mask, they are welcome to don one if they want to.
“The position is, if you feel comfortable wearing a mask, you can. If you’re not comfortable wearing a mask, you don’t have to,” Reade said. “Nobody is going to be criticized for whatever decision they make.”
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