On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington (CDA) announced additional precautions it is taking with regard to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in response to active cases present in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
The CDA has been in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is actively coordinating with county public health departments to ensure that all diocesan parishes, schools, ministries, and charities are responding appropriately to the spread of the coronavirus.
See below for information related to CDA parishes, schools, charities and additional overall precautions.
Along with our previous recommendations to help prevent further transmissions, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Diocese of Arlington, directs all parishes, and high school and campus ministries to take the following measures:
- Suspend the use of a common chalice during Holy Communion
- Omit or suspend the Sign of Peace
- Empty Holy Water fonts
- All liturgical vessels should be cleaned with soap and water after each Mass, including any pyx that will be taken to a nursing home, hospital, the homebound, etc.
- Surfaces in our churches, offices, and other facilities are to be cleaned as frequently as possible
(Public health experts assisting the Diocese have advised that receiving Communion on the tongue does not pose a greater risk of spreading illness than receiving Communion on the hand. As such, this matter is left to the discretion of the pastor.)
Pastors have also been instructed to encourage parishioners who are showing common symptoms of illness (fever, cough, body aches) to avoid coming to Mass or any parish activity until 24 hours after symptoms abate.
Until further notice, Bishop Burbidge has granted dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation for those segments of the community who are most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus (those 60 years old or older, those with chronic illness, and those with immune system deficiencies), as well as those who provide for the care of a person with such a condition. Those who are exempted should check with their parish or the diocesan website regularly for updates.
Note: Those who refrain from attending Mass due to illness should, if possible, devote time to prayer, observe Mass on television or the internet, and/or pray 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 Catholic Schools:
Diocesan Catholic schools have been instructed to cancel all school-sponsored international travel through June 30, 2020, and all domestic overnight travel from March 11 through May 1, 2020, will be canceled. Day trips will proceed as scheduled, except for trips to New York state.
Catholic Charities is actively coordinating with each of its 20 programs and 16 stand-alone locations to ensure that critical services to the poor and vulnerable are delivered consistent with guidelines and best practices prescribed by the CDC relating to the coronavirus.
All expert opinion highlights 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.
Diocese of Arlington leadership is coordinating actively with public health officials. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and will take additional measures as circumstances change.