An Idaho pastor who eschewed wearing face masks during services has contracted COVID-19 and is now recovering in an intensive care unit, church officials said.

Paul Van Noy, senior pastor at Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene, has been hospitalized for two weeks while battling the virus as his wife, Brenda Van Noy, is recovering from COVID-19 at home, a church official told The Spokesman-Review.

Prior to reopening for in-person services last Sunday, the church had shut down for two weeks as it underwent a deep cleaning, a ministry coordinator told the newspaper.

“We didn’t want, obviously, to be spreading the virus,” Eric Reade said.

It’s unclear how Van Noy — who previously said masks weren’t required at his 1,200-member church, and even encouraged congregants to go without them — became infected, Reade said.

Five other church staffers have also contracted the virus, according to the report.

Van Noy has been vocal about his public health beliefs on Facebook, where he said in July that his church could flout a mask mandate in Kootenai County because it isn’t a public place, the newspaper reports.

Brenda Van NoyFacebook

“It is true that COVID-19 cases are in escalation here in our community and that the virus is real,” Van Noy wrote in one post. “However, the panic to ‘stop the world’ or mandate public compliance … is causing untold pushback that will not be helpful.”

Parishioners could wear masks at services, but they weren’t required, Van Noy said. That stance has not changed in light of the Van Noys’ diagnoses, Reade said.

“We all have different opinions and approaches about things,” Reade told the newspaper. “It’s being able to balance that and being loving and kind and respectful in all aspects.”

An update posted to the church’s website Monday said Van Noy had “shown improvement,” while his wife was “well on her way” to fully recovering.

“I am really starting to turn the corner – for the better,” Van Noy said in a statement. “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.”

Paul and Brenda Van NoyFacebook

Van Noy’s wife, meanwhile, who admitted earlier this month that she didn’t take COVID-19 “seriously enough,” shared a photo of herself on Facebook in late August making her stance on face coverings abundantly clear.

“I only wear it when I have to!” she wrote.



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