The numbers of those infected with the coronavirus continues to swell around the world, as well as the number of deaths associated with the virus. While the CDC reports that deaths from other forms of flu should be of equal concern, it’s tough not to let the news worry us. Especially as headlines from Catholic News Service (CNS) and others continue to keep the world focused on it.
When Ash Wednesday services were cancelled in Milan, Italy, it raised eyebrows. And there is this CNS report from Lourdes that reads: “As the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Europe continued to grow, the French Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes announced that pilgrims were still welcome, but the pools the sick bathe in, hoping for healing, would be closed temporarily.”
In a Feb. 18 statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the subject of the coronavirus, the bishops said they “stand in solidarity with those affected by the coronavirus and their families, health workers who are valiantly trying to diagnose and treat patients, and those under quarantine awaiting results of their screening for the virus.” The bishops urge individuals to stay informed by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Closer to home, as the County of Orange has declared a health emergency due to the potential for person-to-person spread of coronavirus in the U.S., Bishop Kevin Vann has, in accordance with canons 85 and 90 §1 of the Code of Canon Law, dispensed those who are sick from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation until further notice.
Additionally, Bishop Vann is mandating that the faithful are not to hold hands during the “Our Father,” nor shake hands at the sign of peace. Communion from the cup is to be discontinued until further notice. And all ministers of Holy Communion should sanitize their hands before and after distributing Holy Communion.
Dr. Tom Cesario, a Catholic physician from within our diocese who works with infectious disease, tells OC Catholic, “Today we are primarily concerned with the spread of coronaviruses, but other respiratory viruses that circulate this time of year as well.”
Here is what Dr. Cesario advises:
- If you are ill, stay home. Do not risk infecting others.
- The coronavirus appears to be spread by droplets, hence maintain a distance of six feet from others where possible.
- Avoid touching surfaces.
- Avoid hand shakes, and provide “peace” gestures with a wave instead.
- Carry and frequently use hand disinfectant.
- If you have concerns, or may be ill, avoid taking the sacred blood.
- During this time cancel and avoid unnecessary meetings until the future of this virus is clear.
- See your healthcare provider early if you think you may need to get consultation.