COVID-19 and Religion

I am troubled by the recent precipitous increase in the cases of COVID-19, some of which are happening in churches. Most experts know that we will see what is known as a second wave. As a Catholic, I understand the desire to return to the Sunday morning worship services. Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass, though our Bishop has wisely lifted that obligation during the pandemic. I am truly worried about the spread of COVID-19 that is happening in religious institutions.

The average age of my Church is higher than I prefer to see. Too many of the members of my parish and other religious communities are in the older age group that has a higher death rate from this disease. I worry for their safety and the safety of their families. The rush to return to regular worship services could make our churches part of the second wave.

I am also aware of how many children are being raised by grandparents. A grandparent raising a child that is unnecessarily infected and placed in an ICU or even worse passes away, could increase the amount of children in an already over taxed foster care system. If this even happens once, it is too many times.

This is a trying time for all of us. Though I do not feel attending Mass via technology such as Zoom or YouTube is the same as worshiping together, it is 100% safer and the only way to guarantee no transmission of disease. While Catholics miss the opportunity to take part in the Eucharist, it gives us the opportunity to live long enough to worship together in the future. This pandemic will not last forever.

During Mass we do so many things that are easy ways to spread disease. We hold hands, we hug, we sing, during the Eucharist we eat food handed to us or fed to us and drink after one another, and at my parish, you may occasionally hear an amen shouted after a homily. Though most religious leaders, including Catholic Bishops, have told their congregations not to do these things, old habits are hard to break, especially when they make you feel better.

I believe Jesus’ taught healing. Eliminating all unnecessary gatherings will help our society with healing by not letting the disease use the Catholic Church as a vessel for transmission. For the faithful, please think about your attendance and whether you can worship at home.

Published by Danny Scalise

Danny Franklin Scalise, II is the Executive Director and Chief Lobbyist of the West Virginia State Medical Association and its subsidiary organizations as well as a professor of Health Policy at the West Virginia University School of Public Health. He is considered one of the leading health policy experts in West Virginia and is a passionate advocate for public health. Scalise has been a public policy adviser to two Governors. He is well known across West Virginia as a problem solver and a great student of West Virginia politics & the legislative process. As part of the Manchin administration, Danny was the Recovery Czar in West Virginia managing $1.8 billion in grants and entitlement funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
 Danny earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from West Virginia University Institute of Technology in 2002, his Master of Business Administration from West Virginia University in 2005, and his Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy in 2018. In 2016 he became Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners. He has been published on and regularly speaks on issues of public health, health policy, and local health department governance & organizational structure. Danny sits on the Board of Directors for the Thomas Health System in South Charleston, WV and in 2019 Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin appointed him to serve on the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health which governs the largest and first PHAB Accredited Health Department in West Virginia. 
 Danny has been recognized by Opportunity Nation in 2013 as part of their national Opportunity Leaders & Scholars program and was awarded the “Health Administration Rising Star” by the American Public Health Association in 2016. He is a 2012 Leadership West Virginia graduate, was on the State Journal’s 2016 Generation Next: 40 under 40 list, was named a 2019 Young Gun by West Virginia Executive Magazine, and was given the 2019 Advocacy Award by the West Virginia Immunization Network for his work to protect West Virginia’s childhood immunization laws. Since joining in 2007, Danny has been an active participant in Mensa.

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