From Staff Reports
The Diocese of Nashville has been actively monitoring the situation surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and the guidance of federal, state and local officials and public health experts.
With the confirmation of at least seven cases confirmed in Tennessee, in Williamson and Davidson counties, pastors and parishioners in the Diocese of Nashville have been thinking about how to safely participate at Mass and receive the Eucharist. Bishop J. Mark Spalding has issued new guidelines for parishes to help them adapt:
- Bishop Spalding strongly encourages all priests in the Diocese of Nashville to suspend the distribution of Holy Communion in the species of wine, and suspend physical contact with others during the exchange of peace at Mass during this period of heightened concern for the spread of illness.
- Bishop Spalding strongly encourages individual Catholics to receive communion by hand rather than on the tongue during this time.
- Those experiencing symptoms of illness or are particularly concerned about the risk of infection based on other health factors are not bound by the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
- The bishop had previously asked priests to use their judgment based on local circumstances about distributing the cup and the exchange of peace at Mass. Many churches in the diocese have already taken these steps.
“One of the things to remember, it’s our doctrine that you receive communion completely even if you only receive the species of bread,” said Father John Hammond, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Nashville and pastor of St. Patrick Church in Nashville. “They have received the complete and whole Christ.
“So if people are worried about the possibility of sickness, they’re perfectly free to skip the chalice.”
Most coronaviruses aren’t dangerous. But in early 2020, after a December 2019 outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type, which can be fatal.
The new coronavirus spreads the same way other coronaviruses do: through person-to-person contact. Symptoms can show up anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure, and include a fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Infections range from mild to serious. Those most at risk of death are the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
As of Wednesday, March 11, the virus had infected 100,000 people globally and led to more than 4,200 deaths, and the World Health Organization has officially classified the coronavirus as a “pandemic.”
In the United States, as of Monday, March 8, there have been more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Locally, a more common problem is the flu.
According to the Metro Nashville Health Department, flu is a seasonal respiratory (lung) infection that causes fever and a cough or sore throat. It is most common during the fall and winter months. Vaccination is the best way to protect against the flu. Seasonal influenza sometimes causes severe illness or complications, but the great majority of people recover fully without any medical treatment.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 or the flu, public health officials at the federal and state level continue to recommend that common-sense practices utilized during flu season are the best defense against illness.
- If you are experiencing symptoms of illness, stay home and avoid contact with others. This includes staying home from Mass to avoid spreading infections.
- Frequently wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough.
See www.dioceseofnashville.com for further updates.