COVID at California Religious School; The leader slams the masks | California News

By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Health officials in California county with the highest rate of new coronavirus infections on Wednesday criticized an evangelical church leader who mocked face masks as “worthless” in a video on social media, calling his comments infuriating disinformation that people should ignore.

The criticism was directed against Beni Johnson, a senior official at Bethel Church in Redding, California, a city at the epicenter of a peak in county-wide coronavirus cases. A college affiliated with the church has seen hundreds of cases that helped spike the county.

“I would really encourage people not to pay attention to this misinformation,” county health worker Karen Ramstrom said Wednesday in an online briefing. “There is only a growing body of evidence on the benefits of face coverings and the use of masks to lessen the spread of this virus.”

Shasta County officials say 274 recent cases in the county were linked to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. That number includes 137 cases reported last week. Overall, the county has reported more than 700 cases in the past two weeks, bringing the total since March to 1,623, officials said on Wednesday.

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Ramstrom said the outbreak at the school was similar to that in colleges across the country and appeared to be coming from students socializing and living in off-campus housing. She said the school had implemented many measures to help curb the spread of the infection, but Johnson’s comments were counterproductive.

In a now-deleted Instagram video, Johnson says she was visiting “a cute little town on the coast” and lining up to buy food without wearing a mask.

“There’s way too much safety in a fucking mask that doesn’t even work,” Johnson says in the video.

She said the people in the line walked away from her and when she arrived at the counter to order she was told she had to wear a mask, even though she had put her sweatshirt over her mouth.

“If you do scientific research, these masks are worthless,” she said, adding that she had planned to go shopping in the city. “But now we won’t go shopping and give them money because you have to wear a stupid mask that doesn’t work.”

Medical experts agree that wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing and washing hands thoroughly are effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, Dean Germano, executive director of the Shasta Community Health Center, said at the conference. briefing.

“It is disconcerting to see leadership in any role disavow the basic public health principles of distancing and masking,” he said, adding, “It is particularly infuriating for those who work in the field. the field of health care (who are) confronted with the repercussions of people. do not do it.

Shasta County currently has the highest new case rate of any county in California, with 19 cases per day per 100,000 people, compared to 6.8 per 100,000 statewide.

Health officials said the outbreak among students and staff at Bethel School was a major factor in the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the county that led state officials to the last week to reinstate more restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses there.

After the outbreak was first reported last week, the school said it took several steps to curb the spread of the infection, including switching to online education and asking its body to 1,600 students to self-quarantine. The school said it requires face coverings and social distancing all the time, with daily temperature checks performed when people enter the school.

In a brief statement Wednesday on Johnson’s comments, Bethel communications director Aaron Tesauro said: “We believe in diversity of opinion and thought.”

When asked if Johnson’s comments reflected the views of the church, Tesauro referred to a line in the statement that read: “Our statements and class actions reflect the final decisions of our entire leadership team. . ” He did not develop.

Johnson and her husband, Bill, are both pastors who hold the title of Senior Leader at Bethel Church, an evangelical mega-church known for its belief in faith healing and the laying on of hands. Another pastor associated with Bethel Church, Sean Feucht, has come under fire for organizing large gatherings in California and across the United States in defiance of local health ordinances which drew thousands of participants, most of whom do not wear no face masks or do not practice social distancing. Thousands of people gathered for a rally he hosted at the city’s famous Sundial Bridge in July.

Bill Johnson is co-founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.

On its website, the school describes itself as “a ministry training center” which is not an accredited university “where our students embrace their royal identity, learn the values ​​of the kingdom, and walk in authority and power. of the King”.

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