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Bishop Scanlan’s Letter regarding Coronavirus Feb. 27

Posted on

27 February 2020

Dear Clergy and Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania,
The arrival of the Coronavirus in the United States has prompted several of you to inquire about implications for our common life and worship in the Church.   I have consulted with our Diocesan Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Mr. Ed Robertson, and also with our Canon for Communications, Mrs. Alexis Guszick, who is in regular contact with her colleagues across the wider Church on this matter.

Here are facts about the Coronavirus (Covid-19): Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China. In recent weeks, the virus has spread from China to other countries.

  • Symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, shortness of breath. If you are experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Symptoms may appear between two to 14 days after exposure to the disease. It is spreading rapidly with cases developing in many countries around the world.
  • The disease is new so there is no vaccine at this time. Health professionals are still learning all of the ways that the disease is transmitted and who is most susceptible. 
  • There is little information about how the disease impacts pregnant women or the child in their womb.
  • It is best to take precautions, especially if you have a weaker immune system, a history of respiratory issues or are over 70 years old. If identified early, the survival rate for this virus is high.

(from episcopalrelief.org)


At this time, common-sense precautions are recommended- the same precautions that are in place during the cold and flu season: 

  • If you are sick, please stay home and take care of yourself. Call your church to let them know that you are ill and if you need any assistance during this time.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Episcopal Relief & Development (episcopalrelief.org) offers these additional guidelines for church communities and when we gather together for worship:

  1. Encourage clergy to wash hands with soap and water before services and use hand sanitizer before distributing communion; also provide hand sanitizer for congregational use:
    a.) Communion: those who are ill should stay home; those who are concerned may abstain from communion or receive “in one kind” (host only); use of the common cup with proper purificator procedure presents relatively low risk; intinction should be avoided (see this document from the Diocese of New York during the SARS epidemic for more information on intinction and other liturgical practices)
    b.) Sharing of the Peace: waving is perfectly acceptable in place of shaking hands or hugging.
  2. If desired by the congregation, adapt rituals to minimize personal contact.
  3. Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use. 
  4. Say a prayer during service for people who are ill and mail prayer cards to their homes.
  5. Perform routine environmental cleaning in the sanctuary, kitchen hall, and other spaces where people gather.
  6. Bolster outreach ministries to prepare to help low-income hourly workers who must call out of work. Encourage those who may consider going to work for the sake of income to stay home because you can offer assistance.

If the virus becomes more widespread in our area, we will offer recommendations for alterations to our common practices that include gathering for worship and meetings, care of the vulnerable among us, and sacramental nurture during isolation. We will also address the role of the Church in society during a pandemic and best practices for serving as a community resource. Please know that our Diocesan Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Ed Robertson, is in regular contact with officials at Disaster Information Management Research Center at the National Institutes of Health and the National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster (VOAD) and he is prepared with plans for Continuing of Operations and procedures in the event of a large scale quarantine.
Please keep those who are sick across our world in your prayers, and those who care for them:

For the Sick
O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your servants that their weakness may be banished and their strength restored; and that, their health being renewed, they may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Amen. (BCP pg. 458, adapted)

For Doctors and Nurses
Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Amen. (BCP pg. 460)

In the Way of Love,
The Rt. Rev. Audrey C. Scanlan
XI Bishop



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