Churches take extra precautions to keep parishioners safe during record flu season

Churches take extra precautions to keep parishioners safe during record flu season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call this year’s flu season more intense than any since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. And it’s still getting worse.

Catholic churches across the country are taking extra precautions at Mass following the nationwide flu outbreak.

Many are suspending the distribution of wine at Mass, and ministers who distribute Holy Communion are reminded to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. They’re also reminded not to touch the hands or tongue of parishioners while distributing Holy Communion.

Several bishops are recommending the sign of peace be offered without any physical contact. Instead of a handshake, Catholics are being asked to bow or gesture to the people near them.

Holy water stations around churches are drained, disinfected, and re-filled with holy water on a routine basis to increase sanitation.

Some parishes, like Midvale Community Lutheran Church in Madison, implement sickness prevention policies year-round.

“We wash our hands thoroughly, scrub up like surgeons,” Pastor Katie Baardseth said. Baardseth explained that her church has always been diligent about sanitation, but worshipers have become more aware of their practices ever since the swine flu outbreak of 2009.

“The point of receiving the meal is to receive God’s grace, so we wouldn’t want anything to get in the way,” Baardseth added. “We wouldn’t want fear to get in the way. We wouldn’t want discomfort. We want to do everything we can to help people feel free to come and receive God’s grace through the sacrament of Holy Communion.”

Churches aren’t the germiest places. Drug stores, grocery stores, workplaces, and restaurants are the top places people suffering from the flu are most likely to visit, according to the CDC. But it’s your personal belongings that may carry the most bacteria. One third of women’s purses are contaminated with fecal bacteria from being placed on bathroom floors. Cell phones are another hotbed for germs and viruses.