Carolyn Muyskens, The Holland Sentinel
Published 3:16 p.m. ET Dec. 4, 2020
Pastor Bart Spencer of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Holland. (Photo: The Holland Sentinel)
HOLLAND, Mich. — A Holland pastor’s comments on COVID-19, shared on Facebook late last week, were condemned by residents who said the comments were “irresponsible.”
During a Nov. 14 sermon, Bart Spencer, senior pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, encouraged his congregation to contract the virus to “get it over with.”
“COVID, it’s all good. Several people have had COVID, none have died yet,” Spencer said in an aside after he started coughing while delivering a sermon. The sermon was videotaped and is available to view on the church’s website. “It’s OK. Get it, get it over with, press on.”
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While most people who contract COVID-19 do survive and many only ever experience mild symptoms, 2.5% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan have proven fatal thus far, according to data compiled by the state of Michigan.
The actual fatality rate is somewhat lower due to asymptomatic cases going unreported, but public health experts believe COVID-19 is still several times deadlier than the seasonal flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated fatality rate for COVID-19 for those ages 0-19 is 0.003%; for ages 20-49 is 0.042%; for ages 50-69 is 0.5% and for ages 70 and up is 5.4%.
Spencer told The Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, that he and several in his family, including elderly family members, have had the virus and gotten over it.
“It’s not fun, I lost my sense of taste and smell, but my bout with the flu was worse,” he said.
He said his church has been holding services in person after congregants asked to resume services in the spring. Some wear masks and practice social distancing, while others don’t.
“We trust our people to make their own decisions,” Spencer said. “We respect one another’s positions.”
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Trying to contract COVID-19 deliberately to “get it over with” has been strongly discouraged by public health officials, who note that even for young, healthy people who are highly likely to survive, there are complications from the disease that can arise and linger after the infection period.
Those who contract the disease can still spread the disease to others, contributing to the surge in cases that has overwhelmed county health departments’ contact-tracing efforts and is straining hospital staff.
On Facebook, the video, posted in the public group “Holland Happenings,” generated dozens of comments, some condemning the pastor’s remarks and others defending him.
The man who posted the video clip, Miguel Medina, is a former member of Lighthouse Baptist Church.
“I had no intention of posting, but I couldn’t believe what I just saw and heard,” Medina wrote in an email.
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