With coronavirus cases spiking in California, the governor has issued new orders banning indoor events including public Masses in much of the state.
On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom suspended all indoor activities at restaurants, entertainment venues, museums, and zoos throughout the entire state. In 30 counties seeing the bulk of new cases, houses of worship, gyms, and hairdressers will also be forced to halt indoor operations.
These counties, which house 80% of California’s population, also cover several Catholic dioceses.
A July 13 letter from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to local parishes called the development “discouraging.” It instructed priests to discontinue indoor Masses, but noted that outdoor Masses and other prayers services, such as adoration, will be permitted.
“Parishes may continue to celebrate Confessions, First Communions, Confirmations, Funerals, and Weddings outdoors on the parish grounds. Parishioners must wear face coverings and practice social distancing, even outdoors,” the letter says.
The governor’s directive will also close parish offices to the public, but it will permit a small number of essential staff to continue employment in the office as long as social distancing requirements are followed.
The Los Angeles archdiocese has encouraged parish offices to communicate with parishioners, answer questions via phone, and “reassure individuals and families that our parishes are still there for them in prayer and to help with any needs they may have.”
Other dioceses in the state issued similar statements.
“I know this feels very discouraging for many of the faithful and I share in that pain,” said Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino. “Please be assured of my prayers and my solidarity with the people at this moment.”
“Let us continue to turn to God to console us in this time of uncertainty and testing. He is always with us and our faith in Him will guide us through this pandemic.”
California is one of a number of states that has begun seeing a rise in coronavirus cases after easing pandemic prevention measures in May.
Since the pandemic began, California has seen over 330,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 7,000 related deaths. There has been a 48% increase in cases in the past two weeks.
On Monday, California reported a 26% increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations and a 19% increase in ICU patients during the last two weeks. The report stated that 72% of ventilators and 35% of ICU beds are still available.
Governor Newsom said Monday that the recent data is a cause for “caution and concern.” He said it is important that restriction decisions be based on local data and conditions.
“We’re moving back into a modification mode of our original stay-at-home order, but doing so utilizing what is commonly referred to as a ‘dimmer switch,’ not an ‘on and off switch,’” he said, according to NPR.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has also emphasized the dangers of the virus, encouraging parishioners to pray and take efforts to remain healthy.
“This is also a good time to remind all of our parishioners that the risk of coronavirus is real, and it is dangerous. While these Orders are discouraging and disappointing, this is the time to pray for one another, trust in Jesus, and focus on the care and love he has for each one of us,” the statement reads.
“May Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Angels, continue to bless our parishes and loved ones with good health, joy, and peace.”