A Message from Tony DeGol
Director of Communications
Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown
March 4, 2020
Over the past few days, local television and newspaper reporters have contacted me to ask what, if anything, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is doing amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. I want to take this opportunity to share with clergy, religious, and the faithful some of what I have discussed with the media.
Bishop Mark is concerned with the spiritual and physical well-being of local Catholics. Several weeks ago, he issued flu season directives for all parishes and faith communities in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. During this time, the Precious Blood is not being offered, and the faithful are asked to not shake hands during the Sign of Peace. Reception of Holy Communion on the hand is encouraged, however reception on the tongue may not be denied. Those directives will continue until further notice.
Fortunately, as I write this, there are no confirmed cases in Pennsylvania. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is in contact with public health officials and will continue to monitor the situation. At this time, we urge everyone in the diocese to take common sense measures and precautions to protect everyone.
It is important to remind the faithful that they are not obligated to attend Mass if they are sick. We ask anyone who is not feeling well to please stay home. During this time, it is also a good idea to avoid shaking hands with clergy and others before and after Mass and at church functions.
Our Education Office is meeting with principals at our Catholic schools to discuss the matter. We are urging our educators to take common sense steps such as cleaning and disinfecting classroom areas regularly and educating children about proper hand washing techniques and covering their mouth when they cough. Certainly, we urge parents to keep their children home from school if they are ill. Teachers and staff who are sick should also stay home.
Our Religious Education Office is also discussing similar steps with directors of religious education at parishes throughout the diocese. Religious Education programs should follow any health directives issued within their local school district.
As noted earlier, the diocese will continue to monitor the situation and respond as developments warrant. This is not a time to panic, however it is a time for awareness, common sense precautions, and good hygiene practices.
On behalf of Bishop Mark, we offer our thoughts and prayers to all who are affected by the coronavirus.