“Jesus was a healer”: A man’s anger at anti-vaccination campaigners in the local churches

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You can tell by his slow pace and dull eyes that Joe Gee is exhausted.

He is physically exhausted from caring for several members of his family in the Perth-Andover area of ​​western New Brunswick who are infected with COVID-19.

And he’s emotionally drained because he believes he can trace these infections back to a local church with a pastor who, he’s been told, “keeps people from protecting themselves” with vaccinations, masks and physical distancing.

“Various people associated with this church have told me that this pastor used this disease to test people’s faith in the Lord.”

That makes him angry too.

“When people say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t get angry’… we all have a right to be scared, and we damn well have a right to be angry too.

“Vaccines are free. Vaccines are not poison. … You have to get vaccinated because if you don’t, you might experience the nightmare I’m living now. “

Gee is the only person among his siblings and parents who is vaccinated. He breaks his silence to face widespread anti-vaccination sentiment in the Perth-Andover area fueled by several local churches.

“That’s stupid,” he says. “If you want to make this a matter of religion, why not tell people that the Lord has already answered our prayers by giving us wisdom and science?

“Jesus was a healer. The people trusted Jesus. Why don’t you trust these doctors who have the information we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones? “

CLOCK | Anti-Vaccine Sentiment Driving the Spread of COVID-19 in the NB Community:

Faith Test: Anti-Vaccine Sentiment Is Driving the Spread of COVID in the New Brunswick Community

Joe Gee of Carlingford, NB cares for his many family members who have contracted COVID-19. 5:05

In an interview in Carlingford, the rural town where he lives outside of Perth-Andover, near the US border, Gee said he was “scared to death” about what would happen to his family.

It would be easy to cut off her decision not to get the vaccine, but he says he can’t.

“I love all of my family members, and because I love them, I feel the way I feel. If I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Evidence of widespread infection in the community

It is impossible to measure active COVID-19 cases in Perth-Andover. The province refuses to break down the 217 active cases in Zone 3, a large health region that Fredericton is a part of. The vaccination rates in the province are also not broken down by municipality.

But there is evidence of widespread infection in this part of the zone.

Three schools in Perth-Andover have closed for two weeks. District Superintendent David McTimoney said Wednesday the three schools have a total of 34 cases.

And the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, which serves an area that includes the towns of Woodstock and Hartland, was 106 percent busy Wednesday, the only Horizon Health hospital officially overloaded at the time.

The Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville was 106 percent full on Wednesday, the only Horizon Health hospital officially overloaded at the time. (Jacques Poitras / CBC)

“Perth-Andover and the surrounding area are currently a hot zone for COVID cases,” says Gee.

“We hear from different families and different people every day who are getting COVID, and now it’s like, ‘This so-and-so lost his family member today’ and ‘So-and-so lost his family member today’.

“And it seems to be gaining traction and is becoming more common. And it’s devastating.”

Gee’s father was hospitalized last week. The same morning he spoke to CBC News this week, he called 911 to have an uncle taken by ambulance to the Waterville hospital.

When he arrived there was no bed for him.

Gee had to call 911 for an ambulance to take his COVID-19 sick uncle to the hospital. (Submitted by Joe Gee)

Retired insurance agent and Perth-Andover resident Jim Pickett estimates there are 60 cases or more in the area.

“It all comes at once, and vaccinations, as we’ve been told, are still the way out,” says Pickett. “How these people are so determined every day that they won’t get vaccinated … someone has to drop a hammer.”

Former MLA progressive conservative Wes McLean says there is “a mixture of fear and fear” in the community.

“I would call it a collective sadness among the people of our community about what is happening.”

He agrees that there is “by and large an anti-Vaxx sentiment” in the area.

The Prime Minister has said churches are a source of cases

Gee will not name the church he says is the source of the outbreak infecting his family.

Pickett says he knows at least three churches where pastors have preached against vaccines and other public health measures like masks and distancing.

“Most of the unvaccinated people I find have a connection with one of the churches,” he says. “This particular church in Limestone Siding, I know over 20 people who are sick, or hospitalized, or have died, and we’ve never seen that before.”

Jim Pickett of Perth-Andover says he knows at least three churches where pastors have preached against COVID-19 vaccines. (Pacques Poitras / CBC)

This church, Amazing Grace Pentecostal, was also the site of the very first exposure report in the area on August 29th.

Since then, there have been 20 additional reports of exposure in Perth-Andover and surrounding communities.

CBC News tried to contact Roy Dee, the Amazing Grace pastor, but did not respond to two messages requesting an interview.

Prime Minister Blaine Higgs said churches have played a role in the increase in cases in the provinces. Initially, his government opposed the introduction of new COVID-19 restrictions on places of worship earlier this month.

But last Friday, the province’s new emergency ordinance said churches must now choose whether to require proof of vaccination or hold 50 percent of services with distancing, contact tracing lists and no chanting. A mask is required for both options.

“This is a strict policy or some other strict policy,” said Health Secretary Dorothy Shephard.

‘I’m talking about it’

On Tuesday, everyone was masked when they entered church for Dee’s brother-in-law, Donnie Moran, to attend a funeral. Moran died on September 23 at the age of 90 after a “brief illness,” according to his obituary.

People arrive at Amazing Grace Pentecostal Church on Tuesday to attend Donnie Moran’s funeral. (Ed Hunter / CBC)

Pickett says there are signs that some attitudes are changing.

“There is a certain church in our city where the pastor told me a year ago that it was all wrong and stupid,” he says.

“And I noticed in the restaurant last week that he wasn’t speaking with the same enthusiasm because he’s now infected a few people in his church.”

Gee hopes the change is real. He sleeps and eats poorly and tries to overcome the stress that comes with monitoring his family’s health.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” he says. “The nurses and the paramedics and the doctors and all the medical staff that I know, I now understand what they’re going through.”

But he says he will use whatever energy he has left to loudly urge people to get vaccinated and hold religious leaders accountable.

“For so long the argument was: ‘I don’t know anyone who has … It’s not here,'” he says.

The Amazing Grace Pentecostal Church was the site of the first exposure report in the area on August 29th. (Jacques Poitras / CBC)

“But now that it’s here, people are trying to hide it. You don’t want to talk about it. ‘So I’ll come out and talk about it and I’ll do something about it. “

He says this could include a civil lawsuit against the pastor whose anti-vaccination sermons he believes sparked the Carlingford outbreak.

Nor does Gee fear setback from churchgoers in the community who don’t want him to speak up.

“That is the least of my worries at the moment. What I worry about is who else this will kill and who else will get sick?

“There will be more people like me who are vaccinated, who need to take care of the unvaccinated. I am concerned about our hospitals which are currently full.

“So I don’t care about a setback. If I stayed quiet and said nothing at all and went on – I’m more worried about my conscience than about a setback.”

If there’s a silver lining for Gee, it is his engagement to partner Tracey Connors, which came last Sunday at a time when the burden of COVID overwhelmed him.

Gee proposed marriage to his partner Tracey Connors on Sunday. (Submitted by Joe Gee)

He got a call at home from a woman who had video-watched her sister die at 4:30 a.m. that morning and who had seen his passionate Facebook posts.

“She thanked me for being open, so after that I broke down and realized that without my fiancée I wouldn’t have been able to do everything I have,” he says.

He proposed to Connors on the spot. She said yes.

His vision of the wedding, whenever it takes place, is simple: “That my whole family is there, healthy and alive.”


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