Pastor at heart of COVID-19 outbreak fined, chastised by Premier

A man sits at a desk in front of a row of Nova Scotia flags
Premier Tim Houston. Photo Communications Nova Scotia
Ed Halverson - QCCR/CJQC - LiverpoolNS | 18-11-2021

Premier Tim Houston calls recent comments by an Amherst pastor "appalling" and "disgusting."

Nova Scotia public health officials have traced three deaths from COVID-19 back to a faith group meeting held between Oct. 25 and 29 by the pastor of the Gospel Light Baptist Church in Amherst, Robert Smith.

In a sermon posted online Nov.14, Smith acknowledged the three deaths calling them, “part of God’s plan.”

Houston didn’t hold back in his response.

“The comments downplaying the seriousness of what’s happening, the comments minimizing the loss of life are completely unacceptable and totally disgusting.”

Following an investigation, Smith has been fined $2,422, the maximum allowed under the Health Protection Act.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang shared the premier’s outrage.

“I am both angry and frustrated,” said Strang. “People chose not to get vaccinated, they gathered with both vaccinated and unvaccinated people against existing rules, and these choices have had significant impacts upon others.”

A man sits at a desk in front of a row of Nova Scotia flags

Dr. Robert Strang. Photo courtesy of Communications Nova Scotia.

The faith gathering has been linked to the outbreak of COVID-19 at the East Cumberland Lodge long-term care home. According to public health, the home has had 31 residents and 10 staff test positive for COVID-19, and two of the infected residents have died. Another death in Northern Zone has also been linked to the gathering.

Dr. Strang also announced during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing that over 80 per cent of Nova Scotians are now double vaccinated.

He praised Nova Scotians for the high vaccination rates but had strong words for those who choose not to get their shots.

“To those who could be vaccinated but aren’t, who are focussing only on themselves, believing misinformation and false narratives and more and more reacting with inappropriate anger, shame on you,” said Strang. “You want to share in the benefits of Nova Scotia’s strong COVID response but you’re not willing to carry your share of the work.”

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