The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland shared information with all parishes the weekend of Feb. 29 regarding public health concerns in the wake of the coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19. Information was provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, which issued a statement regarding liturgical celebrations and public health concerns in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
The statement outlined preventative steps that might be taken in preparing liturgical celebrations -- should such steps become necessary.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as CDC, the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio were identified on March 9. These people have been home-quarantined and those who have been in close contact with them are being monitored for any signs of the disease.
The Ohio Department of Health and the CDC both report that at this time that the CDC still considers risk from the virus to the general public to be low. However, although it is important to take the public health situation seriously, it also is important to avoid inciting undue alarm.
ODH provide the following information outlining precautionary measures that people should take. These precautions are the same commonsense hygiene precautions recommended to prevent the flu, including:
- Avoid close contact with sick persons.
- Cover mouth/nose with tissue/sleeve when coughing/sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing/sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth after touching objects.
- Practice good health habits (clean home, adequate sleep, healthy stress management).
The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Office for Worship, in consultation with the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship and CDC recommendations, suggests that the following measures be taken in the celebration of the liturgy:
- Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be especially reminded of the need to practice good hygiene. Ministers of Holy Communion should be encouraged to wash their hands before Mass begins, and/or to use an alcohol based anti-bacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion.
- Liturgical ministers should not serve if they are sick. This includes both clergy and lay ministers.
- Parishioners who are sick should stay home. Missing Mass is not a sin if you are sick.
- Encourage parishioners to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
- Encourage parishioners to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after shaking hands with others.
- Parishioners who have sick family members should protect others by abstaining from receiving Communion on the tongue, and by abstaining from receiving the Precious Blood.
Click HERE to see the complete publication of the USCCB on influenza and liturgical celebrations.
Precautionary measures which might be taken at the discretion of the pastor -- especially should COVID-19 spread to Ohio -- would include:
- Instructing the assembly to temporarily exchange the sign of peace without physical contact.
- Temporarily suspending the distribution of Holy Communion under both species.
Should the threat from COVID-19 become dire, further measures to safeguard the faithful will be announced. Diocesan officials recommend monitoring the ODH and CDC websites -- as well as official communications from the diocese -- for accurate information on this developing public health situation.
For more information, click HERE.
Updated on March 9, 2020.