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Health and Wellness: Coronavirus

Dear Friends,
As reports of coronavirus increase in the United States and elsewhere, we in the Diocese of San Diego should consider how our faith communities should respond. It is difficult to say now whether the new virus will have a significant impact here. However, it is certainly a good time for us to review both common sense prevention methods, and how we might respond as faithful Christians if the outbreak becomes severe and widespread.


Like many respiratory illnesses, coughing, sneezing, and close contact are the primary forms of transmission of the coronavirus. As with influenza or the common cold, we need to stay home when we get sick so we don’t infect others. In our ministries, we interact with a beautiful breadth of people and by taking measures to limit personal contact and to promote general health practices — proven ways to prevent contraction of any virus—we are protecting ourselves and the people we serve.
Here are some suggestions from the Center for Disease Control:
  1. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. All the time. All-day long.
  2. At all times, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth – the places germs enter the body.
  3. When you cough, cough into your bent elbow, not into your hand. If you have to blow your nose, dispose of the tissue as soon as possible in a waste container with a lid that closes and either wash your hands immediately or use an alcohol-based liquid to sanitize your hands.
  4. Keep your distance. We don’t have to be in each other’s faces to talk. This is particularly important if someone is coughing or sneezing.
  5.  If you’re sick, stay home! Encourage others to do the same if they’re sick. Don’t hesitate to go to the doctor and to urge others to do so.
  6. Pay special attention to those who are at a higher risk of complications: the very young and elderly, those with chronic heart or lung problems, or those with a compromised immune system.
Here are some suggestions for liturgical practices:
  • At the peace and at coffee hour, consider asking people to bow to one another, touch elbows or wave and extend verbal greetings of peace rather than shaking hands or hugging.
  • Arrange for Eucharistic visitors to bring the Sacrament to people at home or in the hospital. Please let the parish office know if you would like to receive a visit or know of someone who would.
  • Some people prefer to intinct (dipping the bread into the wine at communion) rather than drinking from the common cup, but this practice may introduce germs from unwashed fingers into the common cup. Please see the information from Episcopal Relief and Development about communion practices found here. Note that a person who chooses to receive communion in only one kind (bread or wine) is considered to have received the full benefits of communion.
  • Alcohol-based liquid hand sanitizer should be available at various locations around the church and campus. People should be encouraged to use it before passing the peace, receiving communion, or greeting others.
  • Anyone distributing communion bread and wine should wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer. You might consider the use of a larger-than-usual lavabo bowl and soap.
  • Clergy need to be especially mindful of their health, as their wide variety of contacts makes them especially likely to share illnesses with others. If you are feeling ill—stay home. If you do not have other clergy in your congregation, train some lay people to lead Morning Prayer if you are ill on a Sunday morning and cannot find a supply priest.

A Christian Response to an Outbreak of Disease

As Episcopal Relief & Development says on its website:
Our role in responding [to an epidemic], as churches, dioceses, and compassionate Christians, is to:
  • Combat fear with knowledge in order to encourage preparedness and decrease stigma.
  • Maintain operational continuity and continue worship life in the case of potential quarantine and disruption.
  • Show God’s compassion and care to those in our communities who are affected.
These are general guidelines; decisions should be made in collaboration with Church leadership and health authorities, based on local practices and safety concerns.
Other suggestions include the following:
  • Say a prayer during the service for people who are ill and mail prayer cards to their homes.
  • Consider making worship services available by live-streaming so those who are sick can still participate in the worshiping community.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning in the sanctuary, kitchen hall and other spaces where people gather.
  • Bolster outreach ministries to prepare to help low-income hourly workers who call out of work. Encourage those who may consider going to work for the sake of income to stay home because you can offer assistance.
  • Sick leave policies should be flexible, non-punitive and consistent with public health guidance. and Employees should be made aware of the policies, realizing that employees may need to take time off for themselves or to care for loved ones in their household.
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work–healthcare provider offices are extremely busy and may recommend that people only come in if absolutely necessary.
  • Provide disposable wipes for employees to clean off surfaces like laptops and desks.
  • Perform phone checks on the elderly, vulnerable, and those who live alone. Be prepared to deliver groceries and other necessities for those who might be unable to obtain them.
  • Check out this Faith-Based Community Checklist from the Centers for Disease Control.
Finally, please let your diocese know how we can support you. We will update these guidelines with additional information as it becomes available.
Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servants, and give your power of healing to those who minister to their needs, that those for whom our prayers are offered may be strengthened in their weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
In Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego

Category: #Bishop's Blog, #Communications, #Evangelism, #Outreach, #Stewardship, #Sundays, #Worship & Formation, #Youth, Children, & Families

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