Catholic bishops of Ohio have excused church parishioners from attending mass for the next three weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order barring gatherings of more than 100 people on Thursday.
The barring of gatherings with more than 100 people carves out an exception for religious services.
According to church law, Catholics are obliged to attend mass on Sundays. But now, Ohio Catholics do not have to attend Sunday mass for the rest of March.
In an emailed statement, the bishops said they made this decision for the common good of all Ohioans.
"Out of charity and concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we encourage all the faithful, in particular those who are sick, experiencing symptoms of illness, or are at risk of illness seriously to consider refraining from Mass attendance," the Catholic Bishops of Ohio said in a statement.
They said they encourage people who are sick or at serious risk of getting sick to consider refraining from attending mass. The email notes that many elderly priests may be at risk for contracting COVID-19.
Mass will still be offered in Ohio. According to the bishops, they would like to see parish mass schedules remain in tact so that people who are able to can still go to church.
In 2014, 18 percent of Ohioans were Catholic.
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.