Paul Van Noy, a senior pastor at Candlelight Church in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has been receiving treatment in a local hospital for the past two weeks, after testing positive for Covid-19.
After his diagnosis in early September, the church temporarily shut, as five other staff members and Mr Van Noy’s wife Brenda also tested positive for the virus, but they have all since recovered, ministry coordinator Eric Reade told CNN on Thursday.
“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,” Mr Van Noy wrote in a statement that was shared through the church on Thursday.
Mr Van Noy, who described himself as a “no-masker” in a July sermon, 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 to recover at home.”
Candlelight Church reopened for in-person services in May, following a closure of two months due to Idaho coronavirus restrictions.
In July, the Panhandle Health District’s Board of Health, which covers the church’s location, mandated face masks in public spaces. More than 36,000 people have so far tested positive for Covid-19 in the state, while at least 429 have died.
In a sermon in July, pastor Van Noy told congregants that he did not “want to be told” that he needed to wear a mask, but did clarify that he was okay with others choosing to use a face covering.
He added: “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.”
In a Facebook post later in the month, the pastor also falsely claimed that wearing face masks does not help prevent the transmission of coronavirus and told congregants that they should not fear the “cause or effect of Covid-19,” according to CNN.
However, after his diagnosis in early September, his wife posted on Facebook: “I'm humbled,” and added: “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. Please take this serious.”
Despite his wife’s post, the church reopened for in-person services last Sunday and Mr Van Noy wrote in his statement on Thursday: “Now it is time to get back to church.”
The pastor added: “I want to encourage all of you to begin to regather this Sunday and let nothing hinder you from doing so.”
According to Johns Hopkins University some 6.6m people have now tested positive for coronavirus in the US and the death toll has reached 197,946.