Saturday, May 23, 2020
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
Here’s a timeline of archdiocesan actions in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The list printed in the May edition of the Florida Catholic and La Voz Católica newspapers was current as of May 15, 2020. This one has been updated to May 18, 2020.
On March 18, 2020, Archbishop Wenski suspended all regularly scheduled celebrations of Masses or other liturgical events in parish churches and other public sanctuaries. Also, any parish or ministry events — e.g. prayer groups, Bible studies, retreats, etc. — were to be suspended or postponed in order to increase “social distancing” and mitigate exposure to the coronavirus.
- Since then, many of these programs, including marriage preparation and religious education classes, have resumed via videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom. Most parishes also are livestreaming weekend Masses on their websites, Facebook or YouTube pages. See the list here.
- The archbishop said funerals, or other events that perhaps cannot be postponed — e.g. baptisms or weddings — could be celebrated with immediate family members only who are not sick and are not advised by their doctors to self-isolate. Appropriate social distancing should be observed.
- While public gatherings of the faithful are suspended, the archbishop said, the parishes remain “open” to answer sick calls and other requests from the faithful.
- On May 15, 2020, the archbishop gave permission for Masses with the public to resume May 18, 2020, but only in the Florida Keys, and with certain protocols in place.
- On May 18, 2020, he announced that parishes in Miami-Dade and Broward counties could resume daily Masses with the public the Tuesday after Memorial Day, May 26, 2020. The first Sunday Masses with the public would take place Pentecost Sunday, the weekend of May 30-31. See story here.
SCHOOLS / CHILD CARE
Catholic elementary and high schools closed March 17, 2020 and will remain closed until the end of the academic year, June 3, 2020. However, classes at all grade levels will continued online until the end of the school year.
- On May 19, at 10 a.m., Archbishop Wenski celebrated a Baccalaureate Mass for all members of the high school class of 2020. The Mass was livestreamed on the archdiocesan website and Facebook page.
- Catholic Charities is providing daily meals to the families of children who attend its six child development centers. Once a week, at one of these centers, the meal distribution is open to the wider community. See story here.
ELDERLY CARE FACILITIES
Beginning March 3, 2020, Catholic Health Services implemented extraordinary protocols to safeguard the health of patients, residents and staff at its three rehabilitation hospitals, four skilled nursing centers and two assisted living residences in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In addition to following all the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, these protocols anticipated some of orders issued later by the state of Florida. The protocols included:
- Barring all visitors, including family members, while providing communications tools for residents to maintain regular contact with their families.
- Providing the caregiving staff with supplementary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other physical barriers necessary to contain and prevent any potential spread of the coronavirus.
- Creating isolation and recovery wings to comfortably and safely separate and, if necessary, care for any resident with symptoms of COVID-19 or those who test positive.
- Creating clean transitional areas to allow staff and supplies to be safely deployed into isolation and recovery units.
- Conducting temperature checks twice daily for residents, twice per shift for staff, and upon any essential visitor entering the building.
- Publishing a daily count for each facility of the number of residents and staff who are under investigation or have tested positive for COVID-19. Catholic Health Services began doing this even as the state of Florida initially refused to release the list of long-term care facilities where deaths or infections had occurred.
- On April 14, 2020, Joseph Catania, CEO of Catholic Health Services, published a letter where he insisted that “testing and repetitive testing” is the only way to protect people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
- Between April 15 and April 29, 2020, Florida’s National Guard and the Department of Health conducted testing on a limited number of residents and staff at Villa Maria Nursing Center in North Miami, St. John’s Nursing Center in Fort Lauderdale and St. Anne’s Nursing Center in Miami.
- Still, Catania wrote: “Rapid and continuous testing is the only way to ensure the safety of our patients and residents. In Florida, those aged 65 and over comprise 26% of positive test results and 83% of the deaths – a sobering statistic. Both on the state and national level, government officials have neglected their responsibility to provide the testing capacity necessary to protect and meet the needs of our elderly seniors – their phased approach to testing excluded the elderly, making them not a priority but an afterthought.”
- Beginning in early March, Catholic Charities began delivering meals to the homes of clients who normally attend its 12 senior centers and congregate meal sites. See story here.
After closing on March 18, 2020, Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in Miami and Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale re-opened their offices to the public on May 11, 2020. The following restrictions remain:
- Social distancing and mask-wearing are required. Public lobby areas remain closed.
- When arranging burials, requesting a pre-need tour or other service requiring assistance of a counselor, only two family members are permitted in the counselor’s office. Any additional family members will be asked to remain outside. Families are asked to call upon arrival and a counselor will bring them in.
- Until a change is made by Florida’s governor, committal and graveside services remain limited to no more than 10 people. Masks and social distancing are required.
- While the cemeteries are open for visitation, families are urged to take precautions: In addition to wearing masks, bring hand sanitizer if you plan to use the chapels, elevator, water spigots, etc.
- Memorial Masses and anniversary services remain suspended. Families who wish to have an anniversary service will be accommodated once the crisis has been resolved.
The Office of Development created two websites in response to the suspension of Masses and closure of businesses caused by the coronavirus.
- On one website — Universal Online Offertory Page — parishioners can continue to support their churches through online giving.
- On the other — Coronavirus Emergency Fund — Catholics can assist those suffering economic hardship.