FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Faced with the current upturn in coronavirus cases, the Diocese of Fort Worth is now requiring parishioners to wear masks during Mass.

“This is not simply a strong recommendation. People will not be seated without wearing a mask. We must err on the side of caution and of protecting those who are most vulnerable to the dangerous effects of COVID-19 out of an authentic love for our neighbor—a love that befits the selfless love of Christ extended to us in the gift of the Eucharist,” said Rev. Michael F. Olson and Rev. Monsignor E. James Hart in a letter.

They advised that anyone who refuses to wear a mask should stay home and follow Mass by live-streaming.

The church also encouraged anyone over the age of 60 to stay home and to “not distribute Holy Communion for the sake of their health.”

In addition to masked parishioners, there are other changes at the church as a result of COVID times. The church is wiped down with disinfectant in between all masses. Hymnals and other worship aids are no longer used at Mass. Collection plates aren’t passed or handled among people anymore. Holy Communion isn’t shared, nor is there an exchange of a handshake for the sign of peace.

Also, Mass is now limited to 50% capacity with social distancing and sanitizing of hands. Couples and families will be seated three feet apart from others.

Once the church building has reached capacity, people arriving can’t come in.

“With God’s Grace, we are more than able to accomplish this. Please continue to pray for those most affected by the COVID-19 virus, especially those who have suffered economic hardship and loss of employment. Pray for the men and women who serve our community in government, in police and firefighting, in hospitals and nursing homes, in our military, in our food preparation and delivery services, for our priests and deacons, and for the poor and those most in need.”

There was a return to the public celebration of Mass and sacraments with the adaptation of several restrictions and protocols on May 2.

But things have changed since then.

Texas reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the past three days, with a record high of nearly 6,000 on Thursday.

Deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are down to around 600 per day, compared with about 2,200 in mid-April. Some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and because younger adults are more likely than older ones to survive.

The virus is blamed for 124,000 deaths in the U.S. and 2.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count. But U.S. health officials believe the true number of infections is about 10 times higher. Worldwide, the virus has claimed close to a half-million lives, according to Johns Hopkins.

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