by Guy Page
Health Commissioner Mark Levine is unaware of any new Covid-19 cases stemming from the disputed ‘test positive’ at the New Hope Bible Church in Irasburg.
Responding to an inquiry by Ed Barber of the Newport Daily Express, Levine said “I can’t say that with certainty. I’d have to look into it. I hope there aren’t, honestly.” (To which Barber replied, “I understand that.”) “If you have been in close contact, you have an 18% chance of getting Covid.”
Friday, November 27 the Health Department issued a press release urging testing for attendees of the Nov. 22 church service, because an unnamed worshipper had tested positive. Church pastor George Lawson responded publicly that his own investigation shows the worshipper in question didn’t attend that Sunday, and has been tested three times for Covid-19 – each time with negative results.
Barber asked if there’s any new information on the Irasburg church situation. Levine replied: “I really have no update, nothing to add since the press conference Friday.…. According to our labor and test results, we have a positive. There’s nothing more I can really say.” Has VDH done further followup with the contact? “That’s already a week or more old, already. I don’t know of anything recent that has happened….I’m not aware of anything in the recent few days that has happened.”
Gov. Scott then interjected that Orleans County (where the church is located) has seen an uptick in positive tests, and “if you are going out please wear a mask, it’s a simple thing to do.” Orleans positive cases accounted for a fifth of all test positives yesterday, a reporter later noted.
The Irasburg church case has stirred controversy among proponents of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
“Vermont being one of the most secular states in the nation (and ranked last in church attendance), it is hard to trust the state’s intentions when it employs utter falsehoods to launch an attack on an innocent congregation,” 2020 Republican gubernatorial candidate and former church pastor John Klar wrote yesterday in a Vermont Daily op-ed. Klar quoted a caution of State oversight of houses of worship by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in last month’s decision overthrowing the State of New York’s worship attendance limits:
“At the flick of a pen, they have asserted the right to privilege restaurants, marijuana dispensaries, and casinos over churches, mosques, and temples…. Even if the Constitution has taken a holiday during this pandemic, it cannot become a sabbatical… we may not shelter in place when the Constitution is under attack. Things never go well when we do.”
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