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Archdiocese ready to take measures against coronavirus

With the threat the coronavirus will continue to spread in the United States, the Archdiocese of Omaha has reminded pastors to consider precautions to protect the health of their congregations.

These could include suspending the exchange of the sign of peace during Mass, or instructing that it be exchanged without physical contact, and suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful, said Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor for the archdiocese.

“Priests understand that they can always apply the precautionary measures available to them,” he said.

Priests, deacons, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are also urged to practice good hygiene by washing their hands before Mass begins or even using an alcohol based antibacterial solution before and after distributing Holy Communion, Deacon McNeil said.

The Catholic faithful are reminded that if they are sick or experiencing symptoms of illness, they are not obligated to attend Mass, and ought not attend to protect the health of others.

If health authorities determine the risk of transmitting the virus is sufficiently high, Archbishop George J. Lucas can choose to implement further measures, such as granting a general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, or suspending public celebrations of the liturgy, including Mass, Deacon McNeil said.

In case of personal illness or suspension of Masses, Catholics are reminded that a Mass for shut-ins is televised every Sunday in Omaha on WOWT at 10:30 a.m., and on the archdiocese’s website, archomaha.org. Other rural channels, as well as cable channel EWTN, also broadcast Masses for shut-ins.

“We are monitoring all available information and guidance about coronavirus to determine how it impacts the many activities conducted within the Archdiocese of Omaha,” Deacon McNeil said. “Our response to the virus will focus at all times on the health, safety and well-being of our faith community.”

If necessary, updates will be posted on the archdiocese’s website, archomaha.org, and the Catholic Voice website, catholicvoiceomaha.com. Catholics also should check parish websites and bulletins for updates.