An Idaho pastor who was against mask mandate is now in the intensive care unit battling coronavirus, according to reports on Thursday. Before contracting Covid-19, pastor Paul Van Noy had compared the virus to the flu and told his congregation members that they need not wear masks while attending church services.

Van Noy along with his wife Brenda and five other staffers at Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d'Alene were tested positive for coronavirus earlier this month. Brenda posted an update on Sep. 8 about her husband saying that there was "Covid storm in Paul's lungs." She also urged people to take coronavirus seriously.

On Monday, Candlelight Christian Fellowship said that Van Noy showed improvement in his health and Brenda was on her way to recovery. Doctors and nurses at Kootenai Medical were monitoring his health regularly, the church added.

Paul Van Noy and Brenda Van Noy
Paul Van Noy and Brenda Van Noy Facebook/Paul Van Noy

"Having been in the ICU now for 11 days...and counting, I am really starting to turn the corner—for the better," Van Noy said. "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. 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."

Idaho recorded over 36,000 coronavirus cases with 435 deaths as of Thursday. In July, after Panhandle Health District passed an order making it compulsory for adults to wear masks in public places, Van Noy told his congregation members that did not have to wear masks in the church.

"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.' We are not suggesting you disobey your local, city, county, state, or federal laws. ... However, in this case, we can peacefully and biblically resist, without violation of the Godly standards we submit ourselves to," Van Noy said in a Facebook post at the time.

Paul Van Noy
Facebook/Paul Van Noy

Despite being in the ICU for coronavirus, Van Noy did not change his mask policy at the church, which reopened on Sunday. Eric Reade, body ministry coordinator the church, told The Spokesman Review that the church will not criticize people for the decision they made.

"The position is, if you feel comfortable wearing a mask, you can. If you're not comfortable wearing a mask, you don't have to. Nobody is going to be criticized for whatever decision they make," Reade reportedly said.