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Archdiocese makes changes in response to coronavirus outbreak

WCVB Boston logo WCVB Boston 2/29/2020
a large brick church building: Saint Mary of the Assumption Church in Brookline, which is part of the Archdiocese of Boston © Peter Eliopoulos Saint Mary of the Assumption Church in Brookline, which is part of the Archdiocese of Boston

The Archdiocese of Boston is making some changes to Mass practices in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The distribution of Communion wine, known as the Precious Blood, during Mass has been suspended. The only exception is for people who must receive from the cup due to severe cases of celiac disease.

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In addition, the exchange of the sign of peace is to be offered without any physical contact. If the priest chooses to extend the invitation for the sign of peace, people may bow to one another instead of shaking hands.

Holy water fonts, meanwhile, will be drained and cleaned with a disinfecting soap on a regular basis.

The directives made by Archbishop Sean O'Malley, which were also made for the sake of flu prevention, went into effect Saturday.

“It’s a virus and we want to be safe, so I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said Patricia Nash, a parishioner at Saint Mary of the Assumption Church in Brookline.

“It makes sense that the church is taking a proactive approach before things get out of control, and, hopefully, they won’t get to that point,” said fellow Saint Mary’s parishioner Matt O’Rourke.

There has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts as of Saturday. State health officials said the risk to the public remains low.

The United States has a total of more than 60 confirmed cases of the virus, at least one of which has resulted in death. The total includes the dozens of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and a few evacuees from Wuhan, China.

The risk of flu, however, is high in Massachusetts, and there has been widespread flu activity reported in 48 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there have been at least 32 million cases of the flu this season, which have led to at least 310,000 hospitalizations and at least 18,000 deaths.

The CDC is providing daily updates on COVID-19 and the flu, as well as recommendations on prevention and home care.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has also launched a website with up to date information for the public.

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