Paul Van Noy, the pastor of Candlelight Christian Fellowship, a large congregation in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a city with a population of about 52,000 people, was treated in the intensive care unit and has started to recover, church leaders said in a statement on Monday. Mr. Van Noy’s wife, Brenda, also contracted the virus and was not hospitalized. Five church staff members have also gotten sick, a ministry coordinator for the church told The Spokesman-Review. It is unclear if any other cases are linked to congregants.
There have been 2,400 cases and 33 deaths in Kootenai County, which includes Coeur d’Alene, according to a Times database. Over the seven days ending on Wednesday, 98 new cases have been reported.
Mr. Van Noy had shared misleading information about the effectiveness of masks on his Facebook page, writing on July 17 that “it has been clearly and scientifically proven that many masks do not aid in the prevention of Covid-19 transmission.”
On Wednesday, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate panel that masks are “the most important, powerful public health tool we have” in fighting the pandemic.
“May we defend our freedoms lest they quickly disappear,” Mr. Van Not wrote. He added, “We will not be required to wear masks or refrain from allowing those who wish to wear one the opportunity.”
The church is continuing to hold in-person services and other events throughout the week, the statement on the church website said. A ministry coordinator for the church told The Spokesman-Review that the church underwent a deep-cleaning and had closed for two weeks.
Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Aurelien Breeden, Nick Bruce, Emily Cochrane, Stacy Cowley, Hana de Goeij, Elizabeth Dias, Sydney Ember, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Jeffrey Gettleman, Denise Grady, Anemona Hartocollis, Jennifer Jett, Alex Marshall, Claire Cain Miller, Claire Moses, Anna Schaverien, Nelson D. Schwartz, Christopher F. Schuetze, Eliza Shapiro, Daniel E. Slotnik, Katie Thomas, Maria Varenikova, and Sameer Yasir.