Saturday, March 14, 2020

ROCOR's midwest diocese on coronavirus

(ROCOR-Chicago) - The following are mandatory guidelines for parishes, monasteries, and all diocesan institutions in the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America, ROCOR.

These were approved by His Eminence Archbishop Peter March 1/14, 2020 and are in force immediately.

Archpriest Gregory Joyce
Diocesan Secretary

1. The seriousness and risk of this outbreak should not be underestimated. We all have a moral obligation to take what steps we can to reduce the spread of infection. If too many people get sick at the same time the hospitals will be overwhelmed and the death rate will increase. Our actions to slow the spread of the disease will save lives.

2. The best step everyone can take is to practice social distancing. Everyone in church should keep a distance from everyone else – ideally about 6 feet (2 meters). In Colorado they use graphics of snow skis to give people an idea of correct distance.

3. Anyone over the age of 70 should very seriously consider staying home, since they are at a much higher risk of death from coronavirus. Anyone who shows symptoms, or was exposed to an infected person, or is infirm should stay home. Arrangement can be made for clergy to provide confession and communion to the infirm and those choosing to stay at home. Sadly, the most reliable attendees at church are our elderly. It's a cruel disease that targets them.

4. Sanitizer and additional handwashing stations should be readily available.

5. During this time, the faithful are not obligated to kiss a priest's hand when receiving a blessing. Interesting to see no out-and-out forbidding of the practice here.

6. The faithful should not feel that they must kiss public icons. At the same time, we should keep in mind that all icons are miraculous, and that many martyrs died in the struggle with iconoclasm and that we, as Orthodox Christians hold icons in high esteem. Each of the faithful may decide, during this time of pandemic, how best to approach this question.

7. Parishioners should not shake hands or hug.

8. Only antidorion will be provided after communion. Wine will not be provided. This is the Greek custom, and is perfectly suited to adaptation in our parishes. I take a surprising amount of amusement in the turning of this phrase.

9. Clergy visiting the elderly and sick must be especially cautious not to become a vector for transmission. Clergy should bring their own masks and sanitizer. If possible, they should provide masks for the sick to wear, so that the cleric is at a reduced risk of infection. Surgical masks protect the patient from the surgeon not the other way around. Many people misunderstand how masks work. Wearing a surgical match offers almost no protection for the wearer himself. You need an entirely different type of mask for this form of protection.

10. Clergy and parishioners who have been exposed must self-quarantine for fourteen days. A hard thing to date considering the conspicuous incubation period.

11. Each parish sisterhood should increase the frequency and visibility of their cleaning regime both during and outside the times of the Divine Services.



    It's easy to complain of Rod's style, but the substance of this post (such as the Walker Percy's point) is worth contemplating I think.

    It's good to see that at least some in ROCOR are taking seriously the needed temporary changes in routine. When piety becomes its own end the Gospel is obscured...

  2. Regarding masks: As of the infectious disease update I received today this coronavirus is not thought to be spread as an airborne pathogen. It is clearly spread through contact and respiratory droplets. This remains an uncertain point. Based on the China data, a procedure mask worn by the infected patient does give important protection for the visitor. A mask and eye protection on the visitor - along with hand washing can be helpful. If the virus does turn out to be airborne then these measures will not be as effective. Hospitals are currently using special N95 masks but these may only be needed for procedures or with respiratory support technologies in the very ill. Regardless, contact and droplet precautions will not prevent all transmission. Caution is warranted. If a priest is to visit an ill parishioner at home a mask on the ill parishioner is highly advisable.
    Ryan (Sampson) Nash, MD

  3. The "remains and uncertain point" is referring to some controversy over whether there is airborne spread.

  4. Admittedly it’ll be pretty convenient to give up church/lent for Flu season every year since around 60,000 die annually.

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  6. This is a rather weak response for ROCOR. I would refer everyone to the excellent statement from Archbishop Kyrill of the Western American Diocese.