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Archdiocese urges continued vigilance despite eased 'red zone' requirements

A hand sanitizing station in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is pictured in October. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

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BOSTON -- The archdiocese is urging parishes to continue to "exercise maximum caution" against the coronavirus despite many cities and towns no longer being classified as high-risk on the state's color-coded COVID-19 map.

On Nov. 6, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health adjusted its system for assessing high-risk COVID-19 communities, taking into account community population size and positivity rates. Previously, over 100 communities had been classified as "high-risk," represented as red in the state's color-coded designations. After switching to the new system, only 16 communities were considered high-risk on Nov. 6. As of Nov. 12, the latest figures available as of press time, the number of high-risk communities had climbed to 30. The Department of Public Health is updating its COVID-19 statistics each Friday.

The archdiocese's protocols for churches in the "red zone" include taking the temperatures of people attending indoor Mass and keeping lists of Mass attendees to allow for contact tracing. Additionally, in-person faith formation is not permitted, and there can be no small group meetings except for limited 12-step programs, if allowed by the pastor.

In a Nov. 12 statement, the archdiocese said that although there are now fewer communities in the red zone, this indicates a change in the designation, not a change in the spread of the coronavirus.

"The number of new cases continues to climb across the State. Therefore, all parishes, no matter what the color of their zone, should continue to exercise maximum caution during these days. This includes the wearing of masks (covering both the mouth and the nose), strict social distancing, close attention to ventilation, and the sanitizing of the church after each use," the archdiocese said.

MC Sullivan, the Archdiocese of Boston's chief healthcare ethicist, expressed approval of the new grading system in a Nov. 12 interview.

"I like anything that helps us to be more nuanced in our approach, in our procedures, and in our thinking. And I do believe that that's the intention behind this new model," she said.

Questions for the archdiocese regarding the archdiocese's coronavirus response can be sent to corona@rcab.org.

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