Various office directors and members of senior leadership at the Diocese of Arlington have been communicating actively and meeting with county public health departments and communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that all diocesan parishes, schools, ministries and charities are responding appropriately to the spread of the coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Local experts have briefed the diocese and made clear that Arlington and surrounding counties have currently taken a posture of prevention of the coronavirus until circumstances change. As such, our current response is oriented to avoiding the spread of the disease and preparing in the event that occurrences of coronavirus were to appear within the Northern Virginia or Washington area.
Based on CDC guidance and out of an abundance of caution, the diocese reissued recommendations to parishes, which had been suggested previously. These protocols currently are left to the discretion of each pastor:
- Suspend the use of a common chalice during Holy Communion.
- Provide hand sanitizer at church entrances.
- Suspend shaking of hands during the Sign of Peace.
All expert opinions highlight the critical need to wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible, and covering your mouth with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when sneezing or coughing.
The diocese asks our employees and parishioners exhibiting common symptoms of illness (fever, cough, body aches) to:
- Not report to work until 24 hours after symptoms abate;
- Refrain from attending Mass and other parish activities and diocesan events until 24 hours after symptoms abate.
Those who refrain from attending Mass due to illness should consider devoting an hour to prayer, observing Mass on television or the internet, and/or praying a rosary. While nothing can replace attending and participating in Sunday Mass or receiving Holy Communion, those who refrain from Sunday Mass due to illness have not committed a mortal sin. When sick, observing the Sabbath with another holy devotion and prayer demonstrates good will and sincerity.
Diocesan leadership will continue to be in contact with public health officials who are monitoring the situation and we will assess whether a different response is needed as circumstances change.
For more information on this topic from the Arlington County Public Health Division, please visit arlingtonva.com.