An Idaho pastor has been in intensive care for COVID-19 after previously calling himself a “no-masker” and criticizing widespread coronavirus safety precautions.

Pastor Paul Van Noy in late July prayed with his congregation at Candlelight Christian Fellowship that the City Council in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, would not pass a mask mandate, deeming himself a “no-masker." 

The following day, the Panhandle Health District’s Board of Health, which includes Coeur d’Alene, passed an order requiring face coverings for adults when social distancing is not possible. However, the pastor told his congregation that they did not have to wear masks in church, as the order allowed for some medical exemptions that did not have to be proven.

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“We at Candlelight are exercising our freedom, and the right to allow you as members, to come into the facilities without the obligation to observe the Panhandle Health District ‘order,’” the pastor shared on Facebook. “We are not suggesting you disobey your local, city, county, state, or federal laws. As your pastor I believe that would be sinful and wrong.” 

But more than a month later, Van Noy and his wife, Brenda Van Noy, both tested positive for COVID-19. Brenda Van Noy shared on Facebook on Sept. 4 that she hasn't "taken this Covid seriously enough.”

“I have Covid and some of my friends have Covid now but more seriously my husband is in critical care in ICU with Covid and it is serious,” Van Noy shared earlier this month. “Please take this serious. Pray for healing. Love each other. Pray for those who have lost loved ones because of this EVIL virus!” 

On Sept. 8, Van Noy shared on Facebook that “Paul’s lungs need to heal. Pray for strength and that God calms this Covid storm in Paul’s lungs.” 

But the church said in a statement this week that Paul Van Noy “has shown improvement these last couple of days” and said Brenda Van Noy "is well on her way to full recovery.”

The pastor said in the statement that “having been in the ICU now for 11 days...and counting, I am really starting to turn the corner — for the better.”

“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. 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,” the pastor said in the statement.

Prior to his hospitalization, Paul Van Noy had previously said on Facebook and in sermons that the coronavirus pandemic was not a hoax, but case numbers were being inflated. He claimed on Facebook that “it has been clearly and scientifically proven that many masks do not aid in the prevention of COVID-19 transmission.” 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called on all Americans to wear face masks in public since July to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

Van Noy in August also called on churches and businesses to reopen, sharing a post stating, “If you fell for the lies this time, wake up and join the army of truth-seekers fighting on the front lines.”

Van Noy said Thursday that Candlelight Christian Fellowship is temporarily suspending services. However, the church is set to host Charlie Kirk, the president of the conservative organization Turning Point USA, as well as Godspeak Church Pastor Rob McCoy, who was recently found in contempt of a California order prohibiting indoor worship services.