An “elaboration” on what was previously published due to some inconsistencies in implementation across the archdiocese.
In light of the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions by New York State, we can now consider a meaningful “reopening and return” of our parishes.
The CDC has advised that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks in most circumstances, the department of health strongly recommends masks in indoor settings where the vaccination status of individuals is unknown.
With these new guidelines, which apply to houses of worship, parishes in the archdiocese are now able to take the following course of action:
Because our churches are open to the public as a welcome place for people regardless of vaccination status, it is advised to create a “physical distance section” within the church for those who continue to wear masks and engage in physical distancing.
We are relying on the honesty of people regarding their vaccination status. No one will be asked to produce a vaccination card, identify his or her vaccination status, or be designated to certain areas of the church by his or her status.
There are many fully vaccinated individuals who are yet not comfortable returning to pre-pandemic lifestyle and who wish to continue to wear masks and maintain distance even though they are vaccinated. We recommend that pastors refer to the section provided for those who must/wish to continue to wear masks and follow the guidelines as the “physical distance section.”
As a practical matter, not everyone will be ready for an immediate return to normal activities. As such, to ensure our people recognize that their safety is our paramount concern, we recommend the following practices continue:
- We strongly advocate that each parish continue to engage in enhanced cleaning of the church and all gathering places. This practice is well-received by our parishioners and guest and continues to demonstrate that the safety of our parish families is our primary concern.
- Hand hygiene is still required and disinfectant use should be encouraged. Additionally, it is wise to provide disinfectant at the entrances of the church.
- For now, we will not resume the sign of peace.
- Holy water fonts should continue to remain empty.
- Communion from the chalice will not resume right now. Communicants will continue to be encouraged to receive only in the hand rather than on the tongue.
- Given that the CDC has advised that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to maintain physical distance, the six feet requirement may be eliminated, and therefore increased capacity is possible for meetings and other activities.
- In offices and meeting settings where there are unvaccinated individuals or the vaccination status of all individuals is not known, those individuals are required to continue to follow mask and physical distancing requirements. Pastors should work with their staff to make a reasonable accommodation to permit unvaccinated individuals to continue to work.
It is encouraging that we are moving to a return to some of our usual activities. The ability to practice our faith and administer the sacraments during the pandemic was possible because so many of our good priests have cooperated with the advice we were given and made adaptations in the way we worshiped.
His Eminence, the Cardinal is very grateful. Hopefully, very soon, we will be able to close the chapter on this pandemic and return to our normal way of life.
Thank you for all the ways in which you advance the mission of the Church throughout the archdiocese.