February 27, 2020

To date it has been decided not to put any restrictions on celebration of the Mass. However, we encourage the exercise of vigilance and discretion at the local level.

Winter Cold and Flu Season. You are reminded to use common sense in your participation at Mass and the reception of Holy Communion during the annual cold and flu season. If you are feeling ill or think you may have been exposed to a virus, you should refrain from offering your hand to others at the sign of peace or during the recitation of the Lord’s prayer. A smile and a heartfelt, “Peace be with you,” should suffice. During the recitation of the Lord’s prayer you are invited to assume the orans position. That is the raising of the hands and eyes toward heaven as a gesture acknowledging our sole reliance on God. Likewise, if you are not comfortable or receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or from the communal chalice for fear of infection, you should feel no pressure to do so. We understand that some will refrain from participation in the liturgy or the sign of peace and the communal chalice out of care for our wellbeing and not out of unkindness or a lack of piety.

What Pastors, Principals, Directors of Religious Education and other Ministries Can Do to Prevent the Spread of the COVID-19 Virus

  1. Staff members, teachers, maintenance staff should stay home when sick and not return until they have received permission from the attending healthcare professional. Inform parents of sick students and/or infected adult staff to expect follow up communication on all absentees to determine nature of illness. Keep an eye out for sick individuals and send them home for further evaluation. If they are infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) virus, they should stay home until a healthcare professional recommends they return.
  2. Move individuals who become sick at your site to a separate room until they can be sent home. Limit the number of staff who take care of the sick person and provide a surgical mask for the sick person to wear if they can tolerate it.
  3. Remind staff and students to practice good hand hygiene and provide the time and supplies (easy access to running water and soap or alcohol-based hand cleaners) for them to wash their hands as often as necessary.
  4. Educate and encourage staff and students to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. Also, provide them with easy access to tissues. Remind them to cover coughs or sneezes using their elbow instead of their hand when a tissue is not available. Be a good role model by practicing good hand hygiene and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  5. Clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact such as desks, doorknobs, keyboards, or pens, with cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas.
  6. All parishes and other locations should develop a plan to cover key responsibilities in the event multiple staff members are out sick. If staff members have young children, ask them to plan ahead for childcare if a child gets sick or his or her school is dismissed.
  7. Programs involving youth ministry should revise their policies and incentives to avoid unknowingly penalizing students who stay home when they are sick. Arrange for a way for students who stay home to make up program requirements. Maintain good communication with parents at all times.