After defying COVID orders in spring, church members fall ill after event

Falling ill after church event

A number of church members have recently fallen ill after attending a church event in the Christian Valley area, held by a Kelowna church that consistently flouted COVID restrictions last spring.

In a video posted to Facebook last week, Harvest Church pastor Art Lucier said half of his church's staff fell ill prior to holding a retreat Aug. 21-22 in the Christian Valley area, but they held the gathering anyways.

“Just before we went in, half of our staff were just smoked with either a cold, or a flu or COVID, and it's been happening for a number of weeks in our church. And I'm like, 'Hey Lord, maybe we should just step back and not do this,' and the Lord says 'I need you you to go and meet with me in the desert. You go and worship,” Lucier said at 42:00 in the public video.

Lucier did not immediately return Castanet's call to the Harvest Church, but he told CBC News, which first reported the story, that a member of the church has since tested positive for COVID-19.

CBC also reported that in an Aug. 25 letter sent to members of the church, Lucier said "many of our staff arrived [at the event] not well to begin with, and others got sick part way through the event."

In-person church services from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5 have been cancelled at the church, which is located near Burtch Road and Harvey Avenue.

"This last weekend really bagged us out, and like most of our staff, we ended up with the flu," Lucier wrote in a letter to church members, as reported by CBC.

A video from the event, posted to the Harvest Church's Facebook page, is embedded below.

In an email, Interior Health said its environmental public health team is “following up directly to investigate.”

The health authority said it would not disclose individual cases related to an event, unless an outbreak is declared.

“At this point an outbreak has not been declared, however, if broader risk to the community is determined, Interior Health will release a public service announcement as required to ensure the public are kept aware of any developing concerns,” IH said.

Lucier received multiple $2,300 fines earlier this year for holding indoor church services when they were banned under the the province's public health orders.

Lucier also held a number of weekly church services in Kelowna's Kerry Park in the spring, in protest of the ban on indoor church services.

While a number of B.C. churches took the issue to court, a BC Supreme Court judge ruled the ban on indoor church services was a reasonable measure given the global pandemic.

The ban on indoor church services was lifted at the end of May.

While current public health orders in the Interior limit indoor events to 50 people, religious services are exempt from this order.

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