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HOLLAND, Mich. – A Michigan pastor implored his congregation to get infected with the coronavirus in order to “get it over with.”

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Bart Spencer, senior pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, made the comments Nov. 14, the Holland Sentinel reported. While some congregants wear them, the church does not encourage mask-wearing and has been holding in-person services since the spring.

“COVID, it’s all good. Several people have had COVID; none have died yet,” Spencer said. “It’s OK. Get it, get it over with, press on.”

The comments were made as an off-hand remark after he started coughing while delivering a sermon. The sermon was available on the church website but later removed, WWMT reported.

The comments were shared on social media by a former congregant who was shocked when he heard them.

“I had no intention of posting, but I couldn’t believe what I just saw and heard,” Miguel Medina told the Sentinel.

Spencer said he and several family members have contracted and survived the virus.

“It’s not fun, I lost my sense of taste and smell, but my bout with the flu was worse,” he said.

Spencer said in a later sermon addressing the comments that people have the “complete right and privilege to believe whatever you want to believe.”

Most people infected with the virus experience mild symptoms including a fever and cough. However, others, especially older adults or people with pre-existing conditions, can experience more severe symptoms, including pneumonia and death.

In Michigan, there have been 395,036 confirmed cases and 9,854 deaths from the coronavirus, according to state health data.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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