Portland, Maine, Jan 9, 2020 / 14:00 pm America/Denver (CNA).
Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland issued a directive on Thursday suspending the distribution of Communion under both species and the exchange of handshakes during the sign of peace in response to an outbreak of influenza in the state.
Starting the weekend of January 11-12, and continuing until the end of the flu season, priests throughout the diocese will make announcements requesting that any parishioner exhibiting cold or flu symptoms skip Mass and stay home, and that they are released from their obligation to go to Mass on Sunday. In addition to prohibiting the distribution of the consecrated wine, extraordinary Eucharistic ministers are also being required to take extra sanitary measures.
Since December, six people have died from the flu in Maine. From December 28 until January 4, there were 368 new cases, marking a 40% increase over the previous week. Additionally, 90 people have been hospitalized with flu-related complications.
There have been over 1,200 positive flu tests in Maine since the start of flu season. Officials say it is likely that even more people have had the flu, but gone undiagosed.
“Encouraging people who are at risk to stay away from large church gatherings is an extra step intended to maintain their health,” said the directive. The release said that the instructions were developed after reviewing reports from state health authorities.