From Bishop Oscar Solis, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City: I wish to provide the latest update based on my consultation with senior staff and the announcement from Governor Gary R. Herbert regarding the precautions to be taken with regard to the corona virus disease. We continue to be in touch with government agencies as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for current information. We know that Utah has an increased number of people infected with the disease and the clear warning is that it will be worse. The World Health Organization has declared it as a pandemic.
In view of the very serious development of the growing, unpredictable and uncontrolled spread of the corona virus and with an abundance of caution, it is critical to have clearly defined measures to guide us in facing this pandemic and protecting everyone. It is no longer about containment of the spread of the disease but preventing the loss of lives and the greater well-being of the faithful.
It is for this reason that I am declaring the following mandates for full implementation in all churches, schools, and other entities throughout the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
CHURCHES & MISSIONS: 1) For pastoral and safety reasons, the Diocese is suspending the public celebration of worship, including Sunday, weekday and other Holy Masses from March 14, 2020 until further notice. By reason of this emergency, a general dispensation is given from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation. Catholics are asked to pray at home, with the rosary, biblical prayer, personal devotions and/or to devoutly watch televised Masses. It is appropriate to pray for the healing of those suffering the current outbreak of illness, for health professionals, public officials and those serving the common good, our merciful and loving Father will strengthen our faith and trust in His goodness and divine providence. The Diocese will try to provide “live streaming” of Daily and Sunday Mass live from the Cathedral of the Madeleine through the diocesan website. 2) Suspend other parish or school meetings, public gatherings and other events. 3) Cancel all Weddings and Funerals if possible, otherwise these are to be private and limited to immediate family members only. 4) Private Confessions depend on the availability of the priest. 5) In case of emergency priests may administer the Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum. You may wear gloves and dispose of these reverently by burning or burying in the ground. 6) Churches can remain open for private visit to the Blessed Sacrament and personal prayer as appropriate. Holy water fonts must be emptied to help avoid transmission of virus. 7) Announce and post pertinent information for parishioners and others on Church and school doors, the parish bulletin and website, email and other forms of social media. 8) Provide how to reach priests or office staff in case of emergencies. 9) Pastors put up and maintain key working staff for daily operations and emergency calls. Establish basic work schedule and rotation with staff and other workers. Provide health cautionary measures for staff. 10) Pray for God’s grace and intervention for the sick, health workers and our community.
BASIC PRACTICES AND RECOMMENDATIONS: 1) Avoid public gatherings, events and socializing: big crowds or socializing and physical contact especially if you are sick with a cold, sneezing, coughing and fever. 2) Wash hands frequently with soap and water or sanitizer. 3) Stay home when sick or not feeling well so as not to infect others. 4) Tune in to the federal and state government websites for news updates and advisories. 5) Follow government advisory or instructions for guidance. Know who to call and how to report your case in order to seek doctor’s help. 6) Be conscious of the symptoms of the corona virus: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. 7) If you have novel corona virus symptoms, make a simple call to your clinician or public health department to ask about your symptoms. Always use Telehealth First! 8) Visit the website “coronavirus.utah.gov” or call the Utah COVID-19 information line to answer your questions at 1-800-456-7707. Most likely you will be told to stay home, self-isolate and recover as you would with a flu. 9) If you have serious symptoms of COVID-19, do not arrive at a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care facility without calling ahead. You could potentially infect everyone in the office. Follow their instructions. 10) Preparation is helpful. Make sure you have a little extra food and medications in case you have to stay home for a couple of weeks. If possible, get a plan with your family and any groups that you lead in case we have school/work closures.