The Catholic Conference of Ohio suspended all public masses in the state, effective immediately, through at least the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter. It follows a series of restrictions on social gatherings imposed by Ohio officials to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
In a press release, the bishops said their decision came after “serious consideration of the grave health risk involved in public gatherings," and followed meetings with Gov. Mike DeWine and public health officials.
Bishops said the decision caused “great sadness,” as Easter is the highest church celebration among all Christians. The Catholic Church considers reception of communion, which it calls The Holy Eucharist, to be the “source and summit” of the faith.
The press release notes that Sunday is a holy day regardless of whether public mass is offered. The bishops suggest that people supplement their prayer lives with options like the rosary or watching a livestream of the mass.
Last week, the Catholic Conference of Ohio announced that all Catholics were excused from attending Sunday mass for three consecutive weekends, but mass was still being offered publicly.
In 2014, 18% of Ohioans identified as Catholic.
The Ohio Department of Health reports there are 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 14 people who have been hospitalized.
The Ohio Department of Health makes the following recommendations to protect yourself from illness:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; dry hands with a clean towel or air dry hands.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick.
Ohio's coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.