Coronavirus is a Serious Concern
The Wuhan Coronavirus is very contagious and estimated by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to be ten times deadlier than the seasonal flu. This new pandemic poses some small danger to the young but puts the elderly and those with underlying health issues at much graver risk. In Italy, where 6% of those confirmed to be infected with Coronavirus have died thus far, the Italian Catholic bishops have suspended all public Masses in their churches until at least April 3rd. And in Washington State, where 31 people have died, the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle has suspended all public Masses indefinitely.
Due to current limitations in the United States’ ability to test for the Coronavius, it is unclear how pervasively the illness is spreading in this country. For some idea of how bad things could become, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) figures the less contagious and less lethal Influenza virus has infected between 3% to 14% of Americans per year since 2010, resulting in 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually. If 14% of Americans go on to catch this new Coronavirus and its mortality rate proves to be 1% (as Dr. Fauci predicted this Wednesday in his testimony before Congress) it will result in 458,000 U.S. deaths. The Wuhan Coronavirus is clearly a matter for our serious attention.
Signs of Illness & Means of Prevention
What are the symptoms of the Wuhan Caronavirus? The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that among confirmed cases about 90% of patients manifest a high fever and about 70% have a dry cough. Shortness of breath is another noted symptom. If someone believes they are infected, the CDC recommends calling ahead to their personal doctor or hospital for instructions rather than just walking into their local E.R. and possibly infecting others. The sick are urged to stay home and to wear a mask to prevent spreading the disease. There is currently no vaccine to protect against this Coronavirus and a safe vaccine is not expected for at least another year.
The CDC says the virus is thought to spread mainly person-to-person, between people in close contact with one another (6 feet or less,) especially from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person. They recommend frequently washing your entire hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or (if soap and water are not available) to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. They also urge no touching of your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces, avoiding contact with those who are sick, and distancing yourself from other people in general.
Missing Mass & Spiritual Communion
Common, good, and legitimate reasons for missing Sunday Mass include being ill, dangerous conditions, or needing to care for another person. Therefore, when someone is sick, or believes that venturing out would be dangerous, or believes that the risk of bringing a sickness back home to someone in their care is too great, they are excused from attending Sunday Mass. However, if someone is avoiding Sunday Mass as a too-risky activity then it seems that person also should not be attending sporting events, going to the movies, going shopping for non-essential items, or the like, but social distancing in a way consistent with one’s professed grave concern. And if you will be missing Mass for an extended time, to help ensure the continued health of your parish consider registering for automatic withdrawal (ACH) giving from your checking account. Additionally, even if one has a legitimate reason to skip Mass, our duty to worship God and rest on the Lord’s Day remains.
Jesus Christ’s Catholic Church encourages frequent (even daily) Holy Communion, but if we cannot attend Mass we can still unite ourselves to Our Lord by making a Spiritual Communion. St. Teresa of Ávila wrote, “When you do not receive Communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a Spiritual Communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you.” Once, in a vision, Jesus showed St. Catherine of Siena two chalices, one gold and one silver. He said her Sacramental Communions were preserved in the gold chalice and that her Spiritual Communions in the silver one. A Spiritual Communion with Jesus is the next best thing to physically receiving Him in the Eucharist.
If public Masses are suspended in your diocese, remember that the Holy Mass can be seen on TV or online as a next best alternative. Know that the daily Mass readings can be found at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website. And realize that Catholic priests, even if standing alone in their churches, will still be offering the Holy Mass daily for the whole world and bringing Confession, Holy Anointing, and Viaticum to the sick for as long as they are able. The Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic is rightfully concerning, but whatever comes we need not fear, for “we know that all things work for good for those who love God,” and “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 8:28,14:8) As Jesus often said, “Be not afraid.“