Having received calls of concern over public health, and having noted guidance from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Archdiocese of Portland is recommending that parishes cease distribution of the Precious Blood for the time being.

In a memo sent to priests in western Oregon on Feb. 28, the archdiocese’s Office of Divine Worship also suggests that the sign of peace for now be eliminated or done without physical contact. Holding hands during the Our Father is discouraged, said the memo.

In parts of the world where coronavirus is a greater problem, Masses have been canceled. Oregon health officials say that influenza is a bigger threat here.

“Catholics who are ill are excused from Sunday worship out of respect and concern for their fellow worshipers,” the archdiocese’s memo said.

The memo recognized that Communion has “a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds,” that is not always necessary or advisable. But health officials told church officials that chalices can retain germs even of wiped.

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion “should take special precautions,” the memo said. “They should heed all health directives and frequently wash their hands, avoiding contact with others, especially those most susceptible to illness. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who are feeling unwell or have any symptoms of illness should excuse themselves from this ministry.”

Some parishes on March 1 did away with the sign of peace while others carry it out with nods of the head and verbal greetings.