Virginia's Catholic bishop tests negative for COVID-19
UPDATE (March 23):
The Catholic Bishop who represents most of Virginia has tested negative for COVID-19 after self-quarantining last week as a precaution.
According to a statement sent out by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Barry C. Knestout received notification from his healthcare provider on Monday that he had tested negative.
The bishop had entered self-isolation on Saturday, March 14 after experiencing cold-like symptoms after an extensive travel schedule in the previous two weeks.
On Wednesday, March 18, he was tested for the novel coronavirus.
“I want to thank the healthcare professionals and our first responders for their courage and sacrifice as they place themselves in harm’s way to care for our communities throughout our diocese,” said Bishop Knestout. “I am also very grateful to all of you who have kept me in your prayers or who have sent me well wishes and notes of encouragement. I ask for your continued prayers for those who have died from this virus and for those who remain in self-isolation because of it. Please join me in prayer during this difficult time as we ask for God’s grace and Our Lady’s intercession for our nation and our diocese.”
All Masses, like worship services in all kinds of churches, are suspended across Virginia. Many churches across the diocese have switched to livestreamed services.
The Catholic Bishop who represents most of Virginia is self-quarantining as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic after showing symptoms of a minor cold.
According to a statement sent out by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Bishop Barry C. Knestout visited a healthcare facility on Wednesday morning to receive tests for the flu and for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Those tests are still pending results, but upon recommendations by his doctor, Bishop Knestout is now in self-quarantine, following the guidelines of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The diocese says the call was made due to the bishop's extensive travel schedule throughout Virginia and the symptoms of a minor cold that first appeared this past weekend.
Knestout stresses that he does not feel seriously ill but is tasking the measure as a precaution.
He will wait in quarantine until results of the COVID-19 test come back and he is cleared to return to public ministry.
For now, the bishop has canceled all engagements on his calendar until further notice, but will continue to provide video teleconferencing with the diocese.
Earlier this week, the diocese suspended all public Masses until further notice "following growing concern of increased cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Commonwealth and Governor Northam’s ban on large gathering of more than 100 individuals."
“As shepherd, I must balance the health and wellbeing of the community, ensuring we are cooperating with the common good, with continuing with the mission of our Church,” said Bishop Knestout. “I know there are many of our faithful who desire to attend Mass in person and this announcement will bring them great heartache. However, I feel this is a necessary step in the best interest of public health to protect against further infection. I ask the faithful to pray with me for an end to the pandemic, for the sick and all who are working to put an end to this virus.”
The following guidelines took effect immediately throughout the diocese:
• All Confirmation liturgies are suspended until further notice.
• All weddings and funerals should continue with the attendance limited to immediate family members. The
numbers should not exceed 50 people.
• Pastoral care by priests for the sick remains of the utmost importance during this time and will continue.
• Churches should remain open for individual private prayer, but gatherings of multiple individuals for prayer
• Non-essential meetings are cancelled. If an essential meeting is needed, it should not exceed 50 people.
• Priests will continue to celebrate their own private Masses daily to pray for their parishioners and the diocese.
• Bishop Knestout will livestream private celebration of Sunday Masses for the foreseeable future.
• Parishes with similar livestream capabilities are encouraged to do the same for their parishioners.
More information can be found on the diocese website