New COVID-19 mandates set for parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore

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In response to the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases and the hospitalization crisis, the Archdiocese of Baltimore declared new COVID-19 protocols for all parishes from December 29, 2021 through January 31, 2022.

Likewise, a declaration of a state of emergency in Baltimore County was issued on December 27 by health worker Gregory W. Branch and Baltimore County Director John A. Olszewski Jr. enforcing the mask warrants. in public spaces and noting alarming statistics on COVID-19 infections.

Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori noted that the Archdiocese and the COVID-19 task force are closely monitoring positive case rates, trends and developments locally and abroad to ensure the safety of all while progressing.

“Now more than ever, it is important that we remember to take care of our health and safety and those around us,” Archbishop Lori said.

The following guidelines apply to all parishes in the Archdiocese until January 31, 2022, unless otherwise specified:

  • Anyone five years of age or older should wear a face covering inside a Baltimore County and Howard County church.
    • If other counties or the state implement a masking ordinance, all parishes must comply with those ordinances.
  • Liturgical ministers and clergy of all parishes in the Archdiocese are required to wear masks, except when speaking in public.
  • Parishes should make a full and good faith effort to encourage all participants to be masked when attending Mass.
  • Parish campuses should have appropriate signage regarding mask requirements.
  • Non-liturgical ministries and parish activities should be carefully evaluated and, if possible, organized virtually or with limited contact.
    • This effort includes the use of facilities by third parties, such as Boy Scouts, community groups and other gatherings.
    • For other in-person ministry activities, a mask is required for all participants, along with proper hand sanitization and social distancing (a minimum of three feet).
    • Individual third-party users of the facilities for events scheduled in January can proceed as scheduled. However, parishes should not accept any new requests for the month. Any event booked after January should include the stipulation that the parish has the option of canceling the event due to security concerns related to COVID-19.
  • The Catholic Center will provide support to parishes from a distance.
  • Parishes should consider rescheduling in-person social gatherings scheduled for January, February, or later in the year.
  • During liturgical celebrations, each parish should carefully assess the logistics of continuing choirs.
    • If the parishes determine that the choir can perform safely, then the parish can continue with the choirs.
    • If a parish is concerned about feasibility, then the parish should only use one cantor.
  • Parishes must scrupulously respect the disinfection of hands after the distribution of Communion on the tongue. An alcohol spray is suggested.
  • Parishes can continue to offer holy water available in the baptismal font.
  • Dispensers filled with hand sanitizer should be available at entrances, beside clams and in other areas of the property.
  • Each parish should effectively communicate security measures to parishioners and visitors through social media, email, Flocknote, website, newsletter, and Mass announcements.

According to the Public Safety Order, as of Dec. 25, Baltimore County’s seven-day positivity rate was 18.2%, while the current seven-day COVID-19 positivity average has increased from 4. 36% to 15.85% from November 26 to December. 25.

Over a one-month period, Baltimore County and the state of Maryland saw a total increase in the seven-day average COVID-19 positivity of 268% and 264% respectively.

The number of daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Baltimore County rose from 62 to 205 patients from November 26 to December 26, an increase of 231%.

As of December 26, county intensive care units were at 87.25% of capacity, leaving just 13 intensive care beds available across Baltimore County, while state intensive care was at 89% of their capacity.

The seven-day average of COVID-19 patients hospitalized daily in Baltimore County increased from 62 to 178.86 from November 26 to December 26, a total increase of 188.5% over a one-month period.

While the ongoing issuance and termination of Covid-19 warrants can be grueling to follow, taking security measures has been shown to prevent the spread of the virus.

“In times of trial, especially in long struggles, we see how resilient we are,” Archbishop Lori said. “I hope the pandemic has reminded us of our need for God’s grace and our need for each other.”

Email Priscila González de Doran at [email protected]

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