Churches take new precautions amid coronavirus concerns

Low supply of face masks and gloves at a CVS store
A shelf of sold out protective masks and low supply of protective gloves at a CVS Pharmacy in Oakland, Calif.
(John G. Mabanglo / EPA-EFE/REX)

With more cases of coronavirus announced Sunday, some churches are making changes designed to better protect parishioners.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, which serves San Bernardino and Riverside counties, announced that parishes have the option “to implement liturgical restrictions that are allowed during the annual flu season,” according to a letter from the Office of the Vicar General.

They include encouraging parishioners to refrain from holding or shaking hands during service, even during rituals that usually require it; to receive Communion by hand instead of on their tongue; and to refrain from drinking the consecrated wine.


Ministers should also sanitize their hands before and after distributing Communion and stay home if they’re sick, the letter says.

The Diocese of Orange has made those restrictions mandatory because of the local health emergency declared by Orange County last week, according to a statement sent to pastors.

The bishop has also exempted those who are sick from attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation until further notice.

Los Angeles archdiocese officials have not issued restrictions but announced a series of efforts designed to give flexibility to protect health.

The moves come as California announced new cases.

Two healthcare workers at a hospital in Solano County have contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus after being exposed to a patient who was initially admitted there, while three more people were diagnosed with the virus in Santa Clara County.


The two healthcare workers were exposed to the virus from a patient who was being treated at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, officials said. The female patient has since been transferred to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and is considered the nation’s first announced case of “community spread,” meaning the source of infection is unknown.

That woman was not immediately tested for the virus because she did not fit federal testing criteria at the time. Officials had already expressed concern that she could have infected others in that time.

One of the infected healthcare workers is a Solano County resident and the other lives in Alameda County, officials said. They are both in isolation at home.