Church leaders are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control closely as cases of the coronavirus increase in the U.S.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati is advising those who are sick to stay home from Mass and those who distribute communion to wash their hands frequently or use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer before giving out communion.
However, the Archdiocese is leaving the enforcement of these precautions up to pastors.
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Jeremy Helmes, director of the archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship and Sacraments, said the health and safety of parishioners is their number one priority.
“You are not obligated to attend church if you’re sick,” Helmes said. “The last thing the Archdioceses wants is for people to endanger their health and get others sick. Put your health first.”
Helmes said the archdiocese is following to guidance of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and local and state boards of health.
In the event that the spread of the coronavirus were to get worse, Helmes said that Archbishop Dennis Schnurr may later mandate some of the recommendations they have been giving to parishes.
At the discretion of the pastor, the Archdiocese also recommends suspending the sign of peace handshake, in favor or a head nod or other gesture. Helmes said other recommendations include not using the wine chalice during Holy Communion and everyone washing their hands more frequently.
The Archdiocese began sending information and recommendations out to every parish and priest at the end of February.
To learn more about what guidance the Archdiocese is giving to parishes, schools and other institutions, visit their website. Helmes said those who have concerns should talk about them with their pastors and learn about what their parish is doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.