A Maine pastor who led a wedding that became a superspreader and has been linked to at least eight Covid-19 deaths and over a hundred other infections will attend another wedding next month – his son’s.
The son of Rev. Todd Bell ties the knot across the state line at South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on October 17, the Church confirmed.
And if Bell refuses to wear a mask at that ceremony, he could get the boot.
“I hope Pastor Bell will wear a mask,” church official Jennifer Leyden told The Maine Monitor. “Asking another person of faith to leave is an incredibly difficult thing. But unfortunately I have to be a tough ass. If you don̵
South Church is taking security precautions from Covid-19, which Bell has weathered repeatedly in sermons he has delivered at his evangelical church, the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, Maine.
A “family minister” whom Leyden has not identified will conduct the ceremony. Only 50 people are expected to attend the 20-minute wedding in a historic sanctuary that can accommodate 525 people.
It will be an “in-and-out” service with no chorus, added Leyden.
In other Covid-19 developments:
- The NFL postponed Sunday’s competition between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers after several Titans players tested positive for the coronavirus. The Titans players tested positive just two days after the Minnesota Vikings lost in Minneapolis.
- Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said indoor venues slated to reopen next week will remain closed and all outdoor venues must continue operating at 25 percent capacity after the city’s average positivity rate rises for seven days is.
- An apparently healthy 19-year-old student at Appalachian State University in North Carolina died Monday night of complications from Covid-19, school officials said Tuesday. Chad Dorrill was living off campus and taking all of his classes online when he developed flu-like symptoms earlier this month, university officials said in a statement.
- There was grief in the Magic Kingdom when the Walt Disney Company announced that 28,000 workers had been laid off.
- In Puerto Rico, more and more people went hungry as a result of the pandemic. And the $ 900 million Congress approved that year to fund a grocery stamp program that benefits nearly half of the island’s population has been spent.
- Texas has now passed California as one of the states with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths with 15,988 and is approaching New Jersey with 16,117, NBC News shows. New York still has the most at 33,990. Texas saw an explosion of new cases and deaths in the spring when it reopened at the urging of President Donald Trump as Covid-19 hit the south and the sun belt.
The bell reception will be held later in the day at the Great Falls Hall in the nearby town of Somersworth, New Hampshire.
“I’d be more concerned about the reception than sitting in a masked church for 15, 20 minutes,” said Leyden.
Following a request from NBC News, the church released another statement Wednesday that the church is taking extra precautions for the Bell wedding and that the families are working together.
“The rental party is receptive and cooperative with the church’s efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of their wedding reception and guests on this very special day of their lives,” it said.
Unable to be reached for comment, Bell began to rave about opening a wedding at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, Maine on Aug. 7. Afterward, 10 of his parishioners, including his father, tested positive for Covid-19.
It quickly spread across the state and infected 180 more people, including several inmates of the York County Jail. Most of the eight deceased were elderly residents of an old age and rehabilitation center in Madison, Maine.
Todd has been maligned online and on social media, claiming he and his family have received death threats.
But even as the Maine office of the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked the Covid-19 cases to the wedding, a defiant bell continued to hold services that appeared to have little or no social distancing, and urged his flock to trust God the government.
And while he’s not a doctor, Bell said in a sermon that wearing a mask to stop the spread of Covid-19 is “like trying to keep a mosquito out of the chain link fence”.
Bell has continued to oppose Maine virus regulations despite being based in York County, a coronavirus hot spot with 44 percent of the state’s new cases.
Since the pandemic began, Maine has reported 141 deaths and 5,337 infections, according to the latest figures from NBC News.
While Sanford City Council voted to fine $ 100 for not wearing masks, Bell has refused to enforce the rules and there is nothing the city can do because he runs a church and private school, the Sanford Christian Academy.
“There’s really no good conversation to have with him right now,” Sanford Councilor Maura Herlihy said of Bell in an interview with local media. “He wants to do what he wants in his pulpit, and he has chosen his line in the sand.”
Bell is not the only religious leader embroiled in a conflict between church and state to respond to the coronavirus crisis. Several churches in other states have filed lawsuits alleging that government-imposed restrictions to prevent people from getting sick are violations of religious freedom.
One of the best-known examples is the Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, which has been holding services for weeks despite state and local restrictions on indoor gatherings.
And there is The River at Tampa Bay Church, Florida, whose minister was arrested in March for opposing Hillsborough County’s riot ban on mass gatherings during a pandemic.
After the presidential election in just over a month, President Donald Trump is still fighting to stop the spread of a virus that claimed 207,265 lives in the United States and infected more than 7.2 million people on Wednesday morning, NBC News showed.
While Trump continues to claim to be successful in fighting the pandemic, the US is responsible for more than a fifth of the world’s more than one million Covid-19 deaths and over a fifth of the world’s 33.7 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University confirmed coronavirus cases responsible -19 dashboard.