A pastor who told his congregation that they did not need to wear masks in accordance with Coronavirus precautions has been hospitalised in the ICU after contracting Covid-19.
Pastor Paul Van Noy of the Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Idaho, USA had told his church congregants that they need not worry about wearing face masks while attending services. However, he was later admitted to the intensive care unit after both he and his wife contracted the Coronavirus.
The church minister issued a statement that was shared by church staff, which said: "Having been in the ICU now for 11 days…and counting, I am really starting to turn the corner - for the best."
He added, "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 recover at home.
"At present I feel OK but still need quite a bit of oxygen support - especially if and when I try and get up out of the bed."
Candlelight Christian Fellowship is based in Kootenai County, where it is mandated that face coverings should be used in public areas. However, Pastor Van Noy previously stated on his Facebook page that his church congregants would not be required to wear them.
Pastor Van Noy posted on his Facebook page on 17 June: "I have said here at Candlelight, 'If a person wants to wear a mask they should be allowed to do so. However, if they don't, that's ok too."
His post added, "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."
After nearly two weeks in the ICU, the church leader has said, "I thank the Lord for all the support I have been shown and especially from Brenda as she too has had a battle with the Covid-19 herself. I am thankful she did not need to be hospitalized."
He added, "I pray daily for all the staff and members of Candlelight—and the other churches. I am watching in prayer that there are no new cases and we can all be back together—worshipping together as called—very soon. Please pray for health and strength for all. We are called to such a time as this—to represent the Lord!"
Despite Pastor Van Noy falling ill with Covid-19, the church does not plan to alter its guidance to congregants with regards to wearing face coverings.
Ministry coordinator, Eric Reade, has said, "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. Nobody is going to be criticized for whatever decision they make."
In addition to Pastor Van Noy, another five church staff members have also been confirmed as contracting Covid-19.