The continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has prompted a slew of precautionary measures in the United States and around the world, including cancellation of large public gatherings, and reminders of good hygiene practices.
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson issued a mandate March 11 that all parishes adhere to certain health and safety measures at Mass (see page 2). The archbishop asked for continued prayers in this “challenging time,” adding his prayers for “those suffering from illness and those caring for them.”
Many people are taking precautions to guard against the spread of the coronavirus (647 confirmed cases in the United States and more than 113,000 worldwide as of press time), not to mention that influenza activity in Missouri is widespread, with more than 83,000 confirmed cases this season to date.
All of this should be a good reminder to let common sense prevail.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Stay home if you are sick. Don’t share personal items, such as cups or eating utensils.
We have an obligation to take care of our own bodies, Father Peter Fonseca, an archdiocesan priest and bioethicist, said in this week’s Review. Likewise, he said we also have an obligation to do our best to prevent illness from spreading to others.
But in striking a balance, we mustn’t overreact by unnecessarily buying supplies such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer in bulk, or to run to the emergency room with the first sign of a sniffle. Think before you share a post on social media, especially when it comes to checking sources of information. Pay attention, and made sound and prudent judgments when necessary.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good” (CCC 2288).
Likewise, employers have a moral obligation to make sure employees receive proper care, without exposing others to illness. Workplace practices, such as telecommuting and offering reimbursement to sick workers, are not only fair and just, but they make good business sense, too.
We must also keep in mind those who have been affected by illness. There are natural consequences for the person who must adhere to a quarantine for several weeks — missing out on school or work, for example, and limited social interactions for an extended period of time have an effect on people. We must not treat others like lepers, but rather have empathy and pray for those who are ill and others who are at-risk.
The coronavirus may cause disruptions our lives, but we can and should make it our penance this Lent to offer it up, directing our attention and prayers toward those who most need it in a time such as this.