As concerns mount about the spread of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is urging faithful to use “common sense” in liturgies, including approaching practices such as shaking hands at the sign of peace, holding hands during the Lord’s prayer, and receiving communion on the tongue, with caution. 

In a set of recommendations and guidelines sent to parishes Feb. 28, the archdiocesan Office of Worship did not issue restrictions on the celebration of the Mass, but suggested that “during this time of heightened precaution, it might be prudent to receive communion in the hand.”

The Office of Worship also reminds parishioners that “the obligation to attend Sunday Mass does not apply to those who are ill, especially those who have a contagious disease,” and urged those with flu-like symptoms to stay home and avoid spreading germs. 

Parishes should also take precautions and practice good hygiene. Eucharistic Ministers are reminded to wash and sanitize their hands before Mass and before distributing communion, and parishes are encouraged to maintain clean, fresh holy water and to sanitize areas that are touched often.  

The Center for Disease Control has stated that the immediate risk to the American public is low, but “everyone can do their part to help respond and limit the impact of this emerging public health concern.” 

Among some of the advice given was to stay home when you are sick, to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and to avoid touching your face.