It’s not unusual for temporary guidance to be released during the winter flu season, but the Diocese of Gallup is now issuing several extra measures and requests with the advent of COVID-19, or Coronavirus. There are now many confirmed cases of the virus across the United States, primarily on the East and West coasts.
Deacon Randolph Copeland, a licensed physician and the chancellor for the Diocese of Gallup, released a list of preventative measures in a letter for parishes, priests, Eucharistic ministers, and parishioners.
“It is premature to raise too great an alarm about the 2019-nCoV,” Deacon Copeland said. “However, adopting good public health hygiene practices can help stem the spread of influenza, coronavirus and many other contagious diseases.”
He notes that precautions listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are good first steps, including:
- Washing of hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if a person has any condition that makes them more susceptible to infections.
- Staying home when sick.
- Covering a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
In addition, Deacon Copeland lists “prudent responses” for church settings:
- Communion distributed only in the form of the Precious Body
- Limiting person to person touching by discouraging handshaking and hugs
- Not holding hands during the Our Father
- Advising a “no-touch” greeting for the Sign of Peace during Mass
- Changing and cleaning Holy Water fonts often
- Extra cleaning of water fountains
- Placing hand sanitizer stations at convenient sites for clergy, staff, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, ushers and faithful attending Mass
- Reinforcing the recommendation to stay home from Mass and church events when one is sick or coughing/sneezing
- Clergy and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should wash their hands prior to distribution of Holy Communion, and as soon after as feasible. An anti-bacterial gel or hand wipes are acceptable options.
- Increase housekeeping efforts to frequently clean surfaces that are often touched by people: doorknobs, door handles, banisters, and handrails
- Counters for the collection need to wash their hands after their duties (protective gloves might be considered)
- Encouraging the faithful to exercise the above practices advocated by the CDC.
- When visiting the sick in medical facilities, follow the protection guidelines posted by the nursing staff
While the Coronavirus has a mortality rate of up to 2-3%, and most who become infected eventually recover, young children, the elderly, and those who are already sickly are at greater risk than most of the population, and many of these practices will help prevent the spread of illnesses in those who are more susceptible.
“It is recommended that the pastors/administrators observe the general health of the people in their community and react appropriately,” Deacon Copeland concludes. “Local medical providers may be able to assist in determining the prevalence of disease in an area. However, the ease of travel in the current days makes the spread of disease difficult to predict. Attention to the health news for the region or State is a wise practice.”
To keep up-to-date on news and recommendations regarding COVID-19, please refer to the following links: