Coronavirus concerns prompt changes to religious protocols at houses of worship

The fallout from the coronavirus outbreak has many religious institutions on heightened alert.

News 12 Staff

Mar 7, 2020, 2:08 AM

Updated 1,538 days ago

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In the wake of a Westchester rabbi being among the 34 people in the county who tested positive for coronavirus, faith leaders say they are aware of the concerns, and want people to know they are taking precautions ahead of weekend religious services.
At the Sinai Free Synagogue in Mount Vernon, religious leaders have instituted a change of protocol as far as how they and congregants greet each other. They have even suspended events.
Rabbi Mo Barzolai says for the first time he can remember, they have called off their the annual Purim celebration, which was supposed to take place on Sunday. He believes it's in the best interest of everyone.
“We’ve decided for safety reasons and also to help minimize the risk of spreading of any,” Barzolai says.
Rabbi Reuven Fink, who leads the Young Israel of New Rochelle, is now under self-quarantine after he tested positive for the virus, following his contact with the family who first contracted the illness.
About a thousand members of his synagogue are also self-isolating. The institution is expected to remain closed until Sunday at the earliest.
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“We hope and pray it doesn't arrive at the point where we have to discontinue our assembly,” says Father Arthur Mastrolia of the Church of St. Anthony in Yonkers.
On Friday, volunteers cleaned with extra vigilance at the house of worship. They even used Lysol to disinfect the sanctuary.
Mastrolia says in addition to a deep clean, they've instituted a number of new protocols to limit congregants from touching one another and spreading germs.
“We’re asking our priests and our ministers who distribute communion, to wash their hands on the altar so everyone can see before the distribution of communion and after the distribution of communion,” Mastrolia says.
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