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Tucson diocesan offices close for 14 days after potential COVID-19 threat

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Tucson diocesan offices close for 14 days after potential COVID-19 threat

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) — Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson announced March 18 that diocesan offices would be closed for 14 days after it was reported an employee was entering COVID-19 treatment protocols.

“I must stress that the employee has not been deemed ‘presumptive’ for coronavirus or ‘confirmed’ to have coronavirus. Nevertheless, the employee’s doctor has chosen to initiate a coronavirus protocol based upon the employee’s symptoms,” the bishop said in a notice to pastors and released to media.

“While this is regrettable, please be informed that our essential services will continue uninterrupted,” the bishop stated. “Senior leadership in the pastoral center does not believe this will cause any grave delays in our assistance to you or your parishes. Pastoral center employees have been prepared in how to continue their work from home, off-site.”

Bishop Weisenburger said that staff will be working from home, and checking their emails and phone messages “hourly.”

“Situations such as this are destined to become far more common in the coming days and weeks. I appreciate your understanding,” he said.

Earlier the diocese had announced other changes in following protocols to fight the pandemic, including dispensation of the Sunday Mass obligation, cancellation of public Masses after March 16, suspension or cancellation of all parish-based public gatherings, also as of March 16.

“These directives are in place for the next three weeks, until April 6, 2020, at which time they will be reviewed and either brought to a close or extended,” the diocese said. Also, the diocesan schools’ spring break was moved to March 16-27; with any decision to close a school “to be determined locally by each school’s senior leadership.”

Across the country in Virginia, the Diocese of Richmond announced March 18 that on the recommendation of his doctor, Bishop Barry C. Knestout that morning had visited a health care facility to receive tests for the flu and COVID-19. He has been in self-quarantine “out of care and caution” and will remain in self-quarantine following the guidelines of the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He “self-quarantined” because he experienced symptoms of a minor cold the weekend before; he’d had an “extensive travel schedule” within the diocese for the last two weeks.

“Bishop Knestout stresses that he does not feel seriously ill but is taking this measure as a precaution and is eager to return to public ministry,” the diocesan statement. “Until then, he will wait until doctors advise him of the status of the COVID-19 test and he is cleared to proceed with his public ministry.”

It said the bishop has canceled engagements on his calendar until further notice and “continues to lead the diocese through video teleconferencing and other forms of electronic communication.”

“We thank the health care professionals and first responders on the front lines as they tirelessly work to treat and care for our communities,” the statement said.

In the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, Father Christopher Pollard, pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish in McLean, has been in a self-quarantine for 14 days upon his return home after visiting the Pontifical North American College in Rome just before the city’s lockdown over the coronavirus.

His self-quarantine “is going well. It is an extended retreat of sorts,” he told Catholic News Service Rome bureau in an email March 19.

“But I don’t have cell service or Wi-Fi where I happen to be. So in the afternoons I drive to the local Catholic church where I remain in my truck and try to take care of parish matters from a distance,” Father Pollard said. “I have been able to do some marriage preparation appointments by telephone. But telecommuting does not work terribly well for pastors.”

“I have stayed in touch with the seminarian in Rome who is from my parish,” he said. Visiting him “was the reason for my ill-timed visit to the Eternal City.”

The seminarians at the NAC are now less than half of those who usually live there,” Father Pollard told CNS. As of March 16, 92 seminarians remained; the enrollment this year was 192.

“The two Arlington deacons have returned home to States so as to be sure to be home for their priesthood ordinations in June. The rest of the Arlington men are in the college taking their classes online and they seem to be doing well,” he added.

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Brown is managing editor of Catholic Outlook, newspaper of the Diocese of Tucson. Contributing to this story was Paul Haring, senior photographer at the CNS Rome Bureau.


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