One day after the Rhode Island Health Department reported influenza to be widespread in the state, the Catholic diocese of Providence is recommending changes aimed at stemming the spread of the disease.
Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are three of 25 states where the flu is now widespread, according to the Centers for Disease Control. To control the spread of the illness, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin has sent out recommendations to all pastors. Tobin is allowing pastors to suspend the practice of the sign of peace, a part of the Mass where worshippers typically shake hands or embrace. Tobin also recommends the temporary suspension of distributing communion wine with a universally shared chalice. He’s also advising the use of hand sanitizers for anyone handling communion wafers.
And finally, the bishop has temporarily released all Rhode Islander Catholics of the obligation to attend weekly Mass if they have symptoms of serious illness.