by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In response to concerns about illness and possible disruptions, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has sent advisories to parishes and schools about how to prepare for and respond to the cold and flu seasons, as well as the coronavirus/COVID-19.
The guidelines have come from the archdiocesan office for liturgy and sacramental life, and from the archdiocesan school office.
“We’re working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and local health departments to be informed about the risks for our schools,” said Karen Kroh, associate superintendent for student services.
“Currently, the risks are very low” she continued. “At this time (March 2), there are no cases of COVID-19 in Kansas. So, the Centers for Disease Control is encouraging us to implement the everyday preventative practices that typically support environments where people are in close proximity to catching and passing respiratory diseases.”
Kroh sent information and resources to principals on Feb. 29. She also informed principals in Johnson County about a webinar hosted by Johnson County Emergency Response held on March 2.
Additionally, Kroh sent the principals a sample parents’ letter and three ready-to-print posters concerning best health practices. Although the information was directed at schools, these practices can be followed by anyone. (See sidebar.)
“We’re staying in close communication with our state and local health agencies, so if the situation were to change, we’d be helping schools to communicate the latest updates,” said Kroh.
There have been inquiries from parents and principals, but the level of concern is currently low.
“Should we move to the next level of concern, we would receive additional guidance through KDHE and the Kansas State Department of Education,” said Kroh.
Schools have been closed in countries that have been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus, and New York and Rhode Island have now seen the closing of schools after suspected coronavirus cases. At press time, no cases had been confirmed in Kansas.
“We don’t anticipate at this time having to close schools, but we have encouraged each school to review [their plans] for distance learning,” said Kroh.
If the schools must close, that call will come from the KDHE. Reporting of illnesses to the state will be done by local health departments, not the schools. The KDHE has posted a new COVID-19 toolkit on its website, which includes “Interim Guidance for K-12 Schools and Pre-K Programs Operated by Schools.”
Guidelines from the office for liturgy and sacramental life
• Don’t come to Mass if you are sick: Catholics are obliged to attend Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation. But, circumstances such as sickness or severe weather excuse the faithful of this obligation.
• Avoid holding hands during the Our Father: Instead, pray the Our Father with hands folded.
• The sign of peace: People shouldn’t be offended if someone chooses not to offer the sign of peace. Those who are concerned about the spread of illness might simply say, “Peace be with you.” The “peace” exchanged between the priest and the congregation is required, but the actual exchange of a sign of peace among congregants is not.
• Receiving holy Communion: Those who are ill, or suspect they have been exposed to a contagion, should refrain from receiving the precious blood from the chalice, and only receive the sacred host. Do not dip the host, as this is an illicit practice and may contaminate the chalice. Anyone who is particularly susceptible to infection or complications should refrain from reception of holy Communion on the tongue.
• Pastor’s discretion: Pastors may, without oversight from the bishop, suspend or discontinue administering holy Communion under BOTH forms depending on the severity of an outbreak of contagion in their parish.