In these days, it’s nearly impossible to get through the day without some reference to the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s on the news, it's in the papers, it’s all over the internet. And in all the media attention, it can be difficult to keep our balance and not get carried away with the hype. I’ve heard stories of people who stopped drinking Corona beer, because they were afraid of contracting the virus. I’ve heard stories about store shelves being cleared of toilet paper, bottled water, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc.
It seems to me that there are a lot of people who are disposed to fear and even to panic. So how can we help? How can we chart a reasonable and rational course through this difficult time, made more complicated by the irrational responses we can sometimes encounter.
As we made clear in a special announcement three weeks ago, here at Lourdes we are being very attentive to the unfolding situation, and are drawing on resources both local and national, to keep abreast of developments. The Archdiocese has been communicating with the Centers for Disease Control, the public health departments of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, as well as other health organizations.
We can all do our part to be sensible and to minimize the transmission of diseases that can impact the community. Apart from the Coronavirus scare, we are in the height of our annual flu season, and so it behooves all of us to take precautions that many would consider common sense. But as my grandfather used to say, “common sense isn't as common as people think.”
In general there are some things that we can always be attentive to:
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
- Get a flu immunization if you have not done so this season.
Another precaution that might seem obvious, but isn’t always, is to be attentive to trusted sources of information. Rather than rely on hyperbole, or stories circulating on social media, check with trusted sources for the latest accurate information about novel coronavirus. Go to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and
World Health Organization https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus.
In addition, LA County residents can also call 2-1-1 with related concerns.
Staying home from Church because we are unwell is not a violation of the Sunday obligation. In Church, for the duration of the flu season we will need to be particularly attentive, especially at times like the “Sign of Peace” and communion. Our usual practices will differ while we go through this challenging time where our public health is of increased concern. We will continue to offer communion in the hand, and will suspend use of the cup until advised otherwise by authorities. Our baptismal font has a filter and is also treated, and so does not present a threat. Be assured we will continue to monitor the situation.
I am most grateful for everyone’s cooperation and understanding in these times. I encourage everyone, instead of succumbing to fear and irrational behavior, to keep well-informed and to remember to pray for all those who are on the frontlines in keeping our communities safe. Be good stewards of the resources available to us, and hold those who are sick - especially as a result of exposure to COVID-19 - in prayer.