Southern California pastor at Rose Garden event has COVID-19

Harvest Christian Fellowship senior pastor Greg Laurie tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a White House event.

The Orange County Register via AP

The Southern California megachurch leader who attended the White House Rose Garden ceremony announcing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has contracted COVID-19.

Harvest Christian Fellowship senior pastor Greg Laurie tested positive for the illness caused by the coronavirus after the Sept. 26 ceremony in Washington, The Orange County Register reported.

Laurie, who leads the 15,000-member Riverside-based congregation which is said to be one of California’s and the nation’s largest churches, is now among the growing list of Rose Garden attendees and members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle to test positive for COVID-19.

Laurie, 67, addressed parishioners via Facebook on Monday, confirmed he was diagnosed Friday and has since been in quarantine. Laurie’s family has tested negative.

In the nearly two-minute recording, Laurie said he first felt fatigued, achy and feverish.

“Then I found out the news I didn’t want to find out — that I actually have the coronavirus,” Laurie said. He added that he hoped for people to put politics aside and “show compassion to people who are struggling with this. It’s real. It really is a pandemic that has swept the nation and even the world. If the president of the United States can get it, anybody can get it.’”

Laurie described his symptoms as mild — he has trouble tasting food, for instance — and that he’s bored, telling parishioners that “I want to get out doing what I’m called to do.”

“It’s important as Christians for us to be reminded that God’s in control of our lives,” Laurie continued on the recording. “I don’t know why he allowed me to get it, but I got it and I know he will get me through it as he has always been faithful to me in the past.”

Laurie attended a large prayer service at the Washington Mall sponsored by evangelist Franklin Graham that attracted thousands in the hours before the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony, the OC Register reported. A video of the service posted by the Southern California newspaper shows Laurie and Graham. Neither were wearing face coverings as Laurie led a prayer among the tightly grouped throng.

Few wore face coverings at the White House ceremony that followed, an event that is now being seen as a “superspreader” event that may have infected at least eight people, including the president and first lady Melania Trump; Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina; Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEneny and presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway.

Another attendee, The Rev. John Jenkins, University of Notre Dame president, has also tested positive.

Coney Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate.

Jenkins did not wear a face covering. He later apologized to the Notre Dame community, saying in a statement that he “failed to lead by example,” the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune reported.

Trump was hospitalized for several days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with COVID-19 symptoms and was administered a variety of medications, including experimental treatments and Remdesivir, before he checked himself out of the facility Monday evening and returned to the White House. The president’s physician, Sean Conley, cautioned Monday that Trump was “not out of the woods” despite returning home.

In the Facebook post, Laurie said he expects to make a full recovery and said he has always taken COVID-19 seriously.

“It has tragically taken too many lives,” Laurie wrote.

More than 210,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., now home to nearly 7.5 million confirmed cases, according to figures Tuesday afternoon from Johns Hopkins University.

More than 16,000 have died in California with more than 828,000 reported cases, according to the California Department of Public Health. Riverside County has reported 60,454 positive cases, including 203 new cases and seven more deaths as of Tuesday, bringing the toll to 1,238, the department reported.

Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.

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