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Bishop releases updated COVID protocols

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

February 16, 2022

On Friday, February 11, Bishop Terry R. LaValley announced the following updated COVID-19 informaton and protocols:

The governor has lifted the state-wide mask requirement. Effective Friday, February 11, 2022, all indoor public places, including houses of worship, should advise all persons over the age of 2 (except those unable to medically tolerate a face covering/mask) that wearing a face covering is optional but not required.
Unvaccinated individuals continue to be encouraged to wear masks under CDC directives AND socially distance while attending Mass, but use of a mask and social distancing are their choice.

Additionally, health guidelines for large-scale indoor events, pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transportation, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes and health care setting remain in effect per CDC guidelines. Additionally, our Parish Faith Formation programs are required to follow the protocols for schools, i.e., all persons regardless of vaccination status must wear a face mask, all persons must social distance (3 feet), hand sanitizer must be available, and all areas must be disinfected daily.

All parish employees, visitors and students in faith formation programs and Catholic schools are required to wear a face mask and practice social distancing. Visitors to our parish offices have the option to wear a facial mask, but it is not required. Hand sanitizer should be available and parish offices and areas that house faith formation programs should be disinfected daily. These directives are distinct from the directives for those attending public worship. Each parish must still have an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan in place and displayed in its office. Employees are not required to complete a COVID-19 self-monitoring checklist any longer.

Health and Obligation to Attend Mass:
I lifted the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi, June 6, 2021. We must continue to encourage attendance at Mass. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply to individuals who are sick, in a vulnerable category and those who continue to have anxiety or concerns about returning.

Celebration of the Eucharist
The Instructions of the Universal Church and our Diocese for the worthy and reverent celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments are to be followed, with the following exceptions:
• All persons, regardless of vaccination status, may wear a face mask and physically distance themselves from others but not required to.

• The distribution of Holy Communion will continue to be under one form, namely the Sacred Host.

• According to your comfort level, the principal celebrant’s chalice may be shared. Concelebrating priests may receive both Sacred Species by intinction or through use of individual chalices for the reception of the Precious Blood.

• Based on your comfort level, the sign of peace may be offered.

• Our churches, as houses of God, should continue to be kept clean, with continued periodic sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces and objects. Cleaning in between Masses is not required.

• Holy water may be placed in fonts, provided that the Holy Water is replaced on a regular basis and fonts cleaned.

• Churches should continue to assure good ventilation by introducing fresh air, whenever possible, although this is difficult in winter weather.

Baptisms and Anointings
• Baptisms continue to use only fresh water for each baptism and the fonts are to be cleaned afterwards.

• Anointing of the sick is to be celebrated in the normal fashion, i.e., without use of cotton swabs.
In-person gatherings may resume. Participants have the option, but not are not required, to wear face coverings and physically distance.

In implementing these protocols, prudential judgment should be used in serving those entrusted to your pastoral care. I encourage you to discuss these matters with your parishioners and in consultation with your parish pastoral councils, if possible.

At their discretion, pastors are free to implement more stringent measures to prevent the spread of COVID if an increase in infections or variants warrants and measures, such as wearing face masks, bring comfort to your parishioners. We ask all pastors implementing stricter measures to notify their neighboring pastors and the diocese.

All churches should display signs advising all persons that face coverings and physical distancing are optional and not required.

I encourage pastors to exercise discretion in implementing stricter protocols that may be deemed necessary.

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