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Mask rules to be relaxed in church

Archbishop Wenski announces new protocols for South Florida, effective weekend of Nov. 6-7

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MIAMI | Given dropping rates of COVID-19 infections in South Florida, Archbishop Thomas Wenski has announced an easing of mask rules for Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Miami — Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties — effective the weekend of Nov. 6 and 7.

The new rules will permit those who are vaccinated to attend Mass without wearing masks while keeping in place mask requirements for everyone at other parish gatherings.

The new rules also retain the requirement of social distancing among different households, the skipping of the Sign of Peace, and the use of hand sanitizer by those entering the churches as well as those distributing Communion.

Archbishop Wenski announced the changes in a letter sent to archdiocesan pastors Oct. 28, 2021. He noted, however, that “if the (COVID) numbers go in the opposite direction, we may have to reinstate some of these protocols.”

"We continue to encourage all to be vaccinated as this offers the best way of putting this pandemic behind us,” the archbishop wrote.

He also said protocols for schools will be reviewed “once all vaccination data” for the schools was received.

The new protocols also allow for distribution of worship aids such as missalettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of Oct. 28, Miami-Dade County had a 10.22% positivity rate with 87.3% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. New cases had fallen by 23.62%, deaths by 10% and new hospital admissions by 33.08% in the seven days prior.

The numbers for Broward were: 5.07% positivity rate with 73.6% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. New cases had dropped by 20.48%, new hospital admissions by 19.72% and deaths had remained the same in the seven days prior.

Monroe County had a 5.62% positivity rate with 78% of the eligible population fully vaccinated. New cases had dropped by 45.45%, deaths by 66.67% and new hospital admissions by 100%.

The CDC, however, deemed the level of community transmission in Miami-Dade County as “high” and recommended that everyone wear a mask in public, indoor settings. Broward and Monroe’s level of community transmission was deemed “substantial” with mask-wearing also recommended in public, indoor settings.

Following is the full text of Archbishop Wenski’s letter to archdiocesan pastors: (Click here or on the image above to download a PDF of the letter.)

Given the improvement in the positivity rates in the three counties of our Archdiocese, we are making some changes in our protocols. Hopefully, further relaxation will occur in future weeks; however, if the numbers go in the opposite direction, we may have to reinstate some of these protocols.

Effective the weekend of November 6/7, the following adaptions of our COVID protocols for Mass are approved.

  • Mask usage: we ask that the unvaccinated still wear their masks; for the vaccinated, masks are optional.
  • Social distance (minimum 6 feet between households will continue to be practiced - at least, for the time being.
  • Holy water fonts should remain empty.
  • No invitation to exchange "the Sign of Peace".
  • Use of hand sanitizer should continue to be made available. Priests and others who distribute Holy Communion should sanitize their hands.
  • Use of worship aids (song sheets, missalettes, hymnals) is permitted.
  • Choirs: unvaccinated should continue to wear masks; optional for those vaccinated. Choirs should carefully practice required social distancing when rehearsing or singing in Church.
  • Bulletin or pulpit announcement or signage should encourage use of masks for the unvaccinated; however, no checking of vaccination status is needed or advised.

The above applies to the COVID regulations in church only.

  • Parish meetings and religious education classes should continue to use masks and social distance for the time being.
  • Proposed changes in schools will be provided separately once all vaccination data is received from the schools.
  • We continue to encourage all to be vaccinated as this offers the best way of putting this pandemic behind us.

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