Sisters say mother’s death could have been avoided had the church taken COVID-19 seriously – .

Sisters say mother’s death could have been avoided had the church taken COVID-19 seriously – .

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Kim Hibbs says her mother’s death from COVID-19 was completely preventable. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Pearl Lane was full of life: she still cooked regularly, took trips with her daughters, and loved her grandchildren with all her heart.

A devoted Christian, the eighty-three-year-old woman has never missed a religious service. She spoke in women’s meetings and sang in the church choir.

And obviously her devotion to her husband and children was even greater.
“She was a sweetheart,” her daughter Kim Hibbs said. “She just loved life.

“She wasn’t ready to go… She still had a few years left on this earth. And she was taken from us too soon. “

Lane died in October after contracting COVID-19 in a cluster of cases linked to the First United Pentecostal Church in Bishop’s Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

Hibbs and his sister, Beverley Dean, say their mother’s death could have been avoided had COVID-19 prevention measures been more strictly followed during church services in September.

“If they had complied with government rules and protocols in place, wore their masks and respected the six-foot distance, this would never have happened,” Hibbs said.

Bishop’s Falls Church Chief Reverend Leroy Gee declined an interview. In a previous interview in October, he said that physical distancing, disinfection and mask wearing “was not a difficult problem because we don’t have many people”.

Hibbs and Dean refer to a series of gatherings during the first half of September called “camp meetings”. This is where they believe their mother and father were exposed to the coronavirus.

Dean said people gathered from all over the province and as far away as New Brunswick, for the meetings.

“What I can understand is that the church was packed. There was no social distancing. There were no government protocols. There was no mask wearing, ”Hibbs said.

“My mother went to see one of the ladies in the church and was concerned that people were not wearing their masks properly. And there were people there who weren’t wearing any masks at all. And the lady just shrugged. “

Pearl Lane died in October at age 83, after contracting COVID-19. She was only weeks away from her 84th birthday. (Submitted by Beverley Dean)

Dean said the meetings should never have happened in the first place and that Gee should have known COVID-19 was spreading in the province.

She also said the pastor would have seen COVID-19 protocols not being strictly followed among parishioners.

“It could have been avoided,” she said. “As a church leader, a pastor, he should have intervened. And having these services didn’t help. “

Deadly stretch

In the week leading up to the September 10 meetings, 34 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fall 2021 became the deadliest time for the pandemic in Newfoundland and Labrador. From March 2020 to September this year, the province reported eight deaths from COVID-19 – but then, in October, there were eight deaths in a single month, and three separate clusters developed in the center of Earth -New.

Dean said she believed a cluster of cases in the Botwood and Bishop’s Falls area arose from their mother’s church, but the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Health has not identified than a group that was “socially connected”.

The provincial government also did not issue testing recommendations for attendees of these early September church meetings. Instead, he posted a public display notice for a church barbecue later in the month.

Several parishioners at the First United Pentecostal Church in Bishop’s Falls have died after contracting COVID-19.

Lane’s daughters say their mother was a devotee at First United Pentecostal Church in Bishop’s Falls and would never miss a church service. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Of the 10 people who died in the central health region of Newfoundland and Labrador, nine were not vaccinated, according to Dr. Monika Dutt, the region’s medical officer of health.

“We have been generally well positioned for most of the pandemic. We saw dead people, which again we don’t want to see, but it was quite low, ”she added.

“So the fact that so many people died in such a short time was really tragic and sad and I guess it’s surprising in that we didn’t want or expect it to happen. “

Hibbs said her mother was not vaccinated, but planned to be before she got sick.

“She was doing. She and Dad were going to go to Shoppers Drug Mart and get their syringe, ”she said.

“Very victorious. It’s sad, that’s how it is. “

Reluctance to vaccination

Dean said other members of the First United Pentecostal Church were reluctant to get vaccinated, instead saying COVID-19 cases were low in the province and they would wait and see.

The two sisters also say that a parishioner spoke in front of a group at a church meeting and falsely claimed that vaccines were more likely to kill parishioners than COVID-19.

In an interview with CBC News in October, Gee said he did not discuss COVID-19 in his sermons or in his church. He said he was vaccinated himself, and that should have been an example, but said he had not “preached vaccination” in his church. He also called the choice to get vaccinated a personal one.

Dean said the pastor should have done a lot more.

“If the pastor walked up, he should have gone out to everyone and said, ‘Everyone here in this congregation, I would appreciate it if you got the shot because if he doesn’t even fit into this congregation. church, at least you’re ‘safe,’ she said.

In that October interview, Gee said he didn’t feel responsible for the COVID-19 cases linked to his church because he never forced anyone to attend.

Gee also said the majority of his services are small, so physical distance was not an issue. He said he even set up an alternate viewing area for anyone uncomfortable sitting with a larger group.

“I often say to people when they come to church, ‘I didn’t see anybody come in with a gun pointed at their temple or anything like that,” he said.

Lane’s daughters called the pastor’s interview, and the comment, hurtful.

Beverley Dean said she misses her mother very much and knows her mother misses family reunions, birthdays and dinners she should attend. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

“My mother was the most dedicated Christian woman I have ever met in my life, and no one needs to put a gun to my mother’s temple to go to church,” Dean said.

Their mother and father both contracted COVID-19. Their father recovered, but the sisters saw their mother fall increasingly ill in the hospital.

“My mother suffered. And it’s something she always said when she passed away that she would never want to suffer. Is not it? And she suffered, ”Hibbs said.

The two sisters must now prepare to celebrate Christmas without their mother.

They say their dad is heartbroken and it’s still hard to believe their mom is gone.

“I wake up in the morning with mom in mind. I go to bed at night with mom in mind, ”Dean said.

“She just celebrated her birthday. She was 84 on November 3. And we threw a little birthday party to match my dad’s. We sang Happy birthday, and it was amazing, my mom should still be here. “

“I don’t think this was the time for Mom to go. “

Read more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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