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Vaccines are a ‘personal decision,’ church founder says after congregant refuses shot, dies of COVID – Times News Express

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LOS ANGELES — The founder of the multinational Hillsong Church told CNN that COVID-19 vaccines are a “personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals” after a congregant who publicly refused inoculation died of complications from the disease.

Hillsong Church global senior pastor Brian Houston had announced the death of Stephen Harmon, who attended Hillsong in Los Angeles, on social media this week.

Harmon had said on social media that he would not receive the vaccine, even when he was fighting COVID-19 in a hospital this month.

“Stephen was just a young man in his early 30s,” Houston wrote, announcing Harmon’s death on social media. “He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him.”

Houston expanded on his social media posts in a statement to CNN, saying that “any loss of life is a moment to mourn and offer support to those who are suffering and so our heartfelt prayers are with his family and those who loved him.”

Doctor says many hospitalized COVID patients express remorse

“On any medical issue, we strongly encourage those in our church to follow the guidance of their doctors,” Houston said, emphasizing that the church’s focus was on spiritual well-being.

“While many of our staff, leadership and congregation have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, we recognize this is a personal decision for each individual to make with the counsel of medical professionals,” Houston’s statement reads.

Hillsong Church, founded in Australia, has congregations around the world. Harmon attended Hillsong in downtown L.A.

CNN sought comment from the Harmon family but did not receive a response.

Prior to him saying he was infected with COVID-19, Harmon made two posts on Twitter on June 3 in which he parodied Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” lyrics — saying he had 99 problems but “a vax” wasn’t one.

Just over a month later, Harmon had pneumonia as a result of COVID-19 infection and was sitting in a hospital bed in a COVID ward, according to his Instagram posts.

He had been hospitalized with COVID-19 complications since at least June 30, according to his social media posts. Throughout his hospitalizations, social media posts show that Harmon kept in frequent contact with Houston.

Even while in a hospital, Harmon was adamant that he would not receive the vaccine, posting he wasn’t “anti-vax” but was “pro information.”

“i’m not against it, i’m just not in a rush to get it,” he wrote in a July 8 Instagram post. “Ironically, as I continue to lay here … in my COVID ward isolation room fighting off the virus and pneumonia.”

He added he wouldn’t get a vaccine even after recovery.

“Biden’s door to door vaccine ‘surveyors’ really should be called JaCOVID Witnesses. #keepmovingdork,” Harmon wrote the same day on Twitter.

On Friday, after his death was announced, Harmon’s Instagram account was made private.

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Former U.S. President Clinton leaves hospital, will return to New York

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Former U.S. President Bill Clinton walked out of a Southern California hospital on Sunday after being admitted last week for a Urological Infection, live video showed.

Clinton, 75, will return to New York and remain on antibiotics, Dr. Alpesh Amin, who had been overseeing his care at the hospital, said in a statement released by Clinton’s spokesman. His fever and white blood cell count have normalized, Amin added.

The former president had been in California for an event for his foundation and was treated at the University of California Irvine Medical Center’s intensive care unit after suffering from fatigue and being admitted on Tuesday.

He left the medical center accompanied by his wife, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The two-term president, who has had previous heart problems, held the White House from 1993 to 2001.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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UAE’s daily COVID-19 cases fall below 100

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United Arab Emirates on Sunday recorded a drop in daily COVID-19 cases to below 100 for the first time since the start of the outbreak last year as it hosts a huge world fair to which it hopes to attract millions of visits.

The Health Ministry reported 99 new cases, down from a peak of nearly 4,000 a day in January. The UAE’s cumulative death toll stands at 2,120.

The regional tourism and business hub, which still largely requires masks in public places, has one of the world’s highest immunisation rates.

Around 96% of the population of roughly 10 million have received one vaccine dose, while some 86% are fully vaccinated, according to latest official data.

Other Gulf Arab states including Saudi Arabia have also seen daily coronavirus cases fall to below 100.

The UAE is hoping to boost its economy by attracting 25 million business and tourist visits to Expo 2020 Dubai, the first world fair to be held in the Middle East. The event began on Oct. 1 and will run for six months.

 

(Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Surge in demand: Distribution of COVID-19 rapid-test kits cut short in New Brunswick – CTV News Atlantic

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MONCTON –

Faced with long lineups and heavy demand, health officials in New Brunswick were forced to cut short the distribution of free COVID-19 rapid-test kits at three locations Saturday.

At Magic Mountain on Magnetic Hill in Moncton, cars lined up kilometres down the road.

It was the first time the province provided rapid test kits to the public for take-home use.

Danica Gautreau, a nurse practitioner who has her own practice, said some people arrived as early as 6 a.m. which was two hours before they opened.

“They are going pretty fast. There is a lot of people,” she said.

The sites opened on Saturday were located in Moncton, Grand Falls and Perth-Andover were scheduled to run from 8 a.m. To 5 p.m.

But by noon, the Moncton site had handed out all 4,500 kits. According to the province, pick-up sites had to close early due to the overwhelming demand for tests.

“We didn’t really know how much interest it would be, we didn’t know it would be that many people,” she said.

Many people in line at the Moncton location reported waiting between 30 and 90 minutes to get a kit.

Gautreau said that each person in the vehicle gets one COVID-19 rapid test kit which has 5 tests within it. Those who currently have COVID-19 symptoms or have contracted the virus within the last 90 days were not able to take home a test.

On Friday, New Brunswick’s Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told CTV News that the province is hoping by offering tests to the public will help determine if there are more cases out there.

“It’s really important for public health to know how many active cases there are in the province. At this point, we’ve been able to keep contact tracing going but we want to try and prevent community spread,” she said.

Shephard said as of this week the province has deployed over a million rapid tests.

“I think if individuals are going to pick up the tests, they’re doing that for a reason, to either assure themselves but also to know that they should be isolating if they need to,” said Shephard.

On Monday, rapid testing kits will be handed out at more locations across the province, not limited to circuit breaker zones.

-With files from The Canadian Press. 

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