Florida Pastor Says 6 Church Members Died From COVID in Last 10 Days: 'It's Pain'

A pastor in Florida expressed the "pain" he and his congregation are feeling after six unvaccinated church members died of COVID-19 within 10 days, as 20 to 30 others remain sick with the novel virus.

Senior Pastor George Davis at Impact Church in Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood told News4Jax on Friday that he is urging more members to get vaccinated amid the outbreak, which he does not believe started at the church.

He noted that all the members who died were healthy before contracting COVID-19, and four of them were under the age of 35.

"In the last 10 days, we have had six members of our church who passed away from COVID. Four of them were under the age of 35. All of them were healthy, and the only thing they had in common was they were not vaccinated," Davis told the local news outlet.

Davis explained that his church follows all the guidelines put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Congregants are required to wear masks, the church implements social distancing policies, the building is cleaned between services, and hand sanitizer is provided.

The pastor said that after speaking with the families of those who died and are sick, he is confident they caught the virus somewhere besides the church.

COVID-19 vaccine
A Florida pastor said that six of his church members, all who were unvaccinated, died of COVID-19 in the past 10 days. In this photo, a health care worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a young woman during a vaccination event hosted by Miami Heat at FTX Arena in Miami, Florida on August 5. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

In addition to those who died, the pastor explained that 15 to 20 other members remain hospitalized with COVID-19. About 10 others are at home fighting back the virus. Just three to five vaccinated members have tested positive, Davis told News4Jax.

"It's pain," the pastor said. "These are actual people that I know, that I have pastored. One 24-year-old kid, I've known him since he was a toddler."

The church already had strongly encouraged vaccinations against the novel coronavirus. Back in March, the congregation held a vaccination drive during which some 800 people were reportedly vaccinated. In the wake of the outbreak among church members, the religious community has organized another vaccination event in conjunction with University of Florida Health on Sunday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Courtney Cole, a representative for the church, told Newsweek in a Saturday evening email that the church was seeing more vaccine-hesitant members schedule vaccine appointments in recent days.

"Pastor Davis said he is seeing more hesitant church members getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Some are even making plans to get the shot, during the vaccine event the church is hosting on Sunday, August 8th," Cole wrote.

Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, shared a link to the news story to Twitter on Saturday.

"God created the laws of chemistry and biology. Do not expect God to make a special exception that somehow those laws won't apply to you," Lieu wrote with the link.

He then went on to quote the Bible: "'The Scriptures also say, 'You must not test the Lord your God.' Matthew 4:7. #SoulsLostToCovid."

The state of Florida alone has accounted for about 18 percent of new average daily COVID-19 infections in the U.S. over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times' tracker. Florida has the highest new daily infections of any state, with an average of more than 19,000 per day in the last 14 days. Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, has averaged more than 1,100 new daily cases.

Meanwhile, about 70 percent of Florida's residents have received at least one dose of one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines. More than 59 percent have received both of the required shots.

Updated 8/8/21, 9:00 AM ET, with further comment from Impact Church.