Dear Team & Parents:

I know there is heightened concern over the coronavirus outbreak, so I wanted to address it directly on how we are both monitoring and being proactive. In the absence of Father Frank, let me take the lead as Pastor.

First, please note that the common flu this year impacts more people directly and is more harmful than this outbreak with coronavirus. Additionally, coronavirus tends not to impact children as harshly as adults, and the most deaths have occurred to those vulnerable amulets that are elderly, have an underlying medical condition, or have limited access to quality healthcare. And, more people are recovering from this virus, and more rapidly, than from the flu strain this year.

Now, to our response:

Our parish implemented new guidelines with respect to Holy Communion and the Sign of Peace at Mass early last week. They are stated as:

1. During the cold and flu season and the current situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, all parishioners are reminded to use common sense and good hygiene.

2. Those who are ill are not obliged to attend Mass and should stay home to recover and receive a dispensation. (You may also attend Mass via our LiveStream here.)

3. If you are feeling ill while attending Mass, please refrain from partaking of the Blood of Christ from the communal chalice.

4. If you are not already accustomed to do so, you will be receiving Holy communion in the hand only during this cold/flu season.

5. We also suggest that those who are not feeling well refrain from offering their hand to others at the sign of peace. A nice smile and a nod will graciously be accepted!

6. All clergy including priests, deacons, subdeacons and Extraordinary Ministers will wash their hands immediately prior to Mass.

7. We will also have availability of hand sanitizer at both the Altar area AND in the Bell Tower entry to the parish and school entry for your use.

a. While nothing is better than washing your hands thoroughly, hand sanitizers are an effective supplemental to good hygiene.

Our Monitoring:

1. We are on Montgomery County Department of Health’s alert system. We receive daily updates as needed.

2. We have a school nurse, Katelyn, who works at CHOP and updates and monitors us daily with the latest information, as needed.

a. Katelyn is going to be attending a forum this afternoon at 12 noon given by CHOP by the CDC on their most recent information and guidance.

Additionally, I personally spent 20 minutes on the phone with the Montgomery County Department of Health this morning and their recommendation is the same that there is no eminent threat to any school system and that there is no reason to close.

Katelyn also spoke with both Hey Diddle Diddle and Saint Thomas and they are doing the exact same thing. No one is closing unless there is a direct case of presumptive exposure. It should be noted, too, that even the school districts that have chosen to close those few schools went against Montgomery County’s guidelines and advice and it should be also noted that none of those cases were direct contact. According to the individual I spoke to at the health department, the closest exposure that was possible was three persons removed, but the school district still chose to close the schools primarily for a deep cleaning, which we have already put into place at SMS for this coming Friday.

The other concern that the health department has is that if one or two more schools decides to close and it becomes public it’s going to create more of an issue with fear. Again, there have been no issues at any local school and nothing at SMS for us to be concerned as of today, but we are monitoring closely.

Next Steps:

1. We have arranged for a ‘deep cleaning’ this Friday. (3/13/2020)

2. Our cleaning crew will spend more time with disinfecting every day.

3. We have purchased a new cleaning agent that is used by CHOP’s Emergency Department and it has been used every day for the last week.

4. We are suspending First Friday Masses until further notice.

5. We have hand sanitizer available on both levels of the school and church.

6. We implemented hand-hygiene guidelines last week.

7. We also placed on social media for both church and school updated information at the start of this week and will update as needed.

8. We are coordinating with other school in area. If they have a case, we will know before anyone.

In the meantime, I also think that we should clean routinely as we should always be and also the small toys should be disinfected at the close of today and tomorrow. We will pay for that cleaning time as part of their regular payroll.

All staff and educators must continue to monitor hand hygiene and if a child presents as being ill then they should simply be sent to home per our regular normal guidelines, which is the most effective way to deal with any illness.

We will place a notice on the door and in the check-in room that if anyone has traveled outside of the country or has any knowledge of direct exposure to anyone being tested for coronavirus that they should notify the administration immediately.

We pray for the health and recovery of all who are ill and not able to be with us or are fearful.

In Service and Hope.
I remain,

Monsignor +Jim

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