Hello everyone! I was hoping I wouldn’t have to say anything else about masks ever again, but it turns out there is some confusion about whether or not masks are still required at our local parishes. I take full responsibility for any confusion and I hope that the following will provide a bit more clarity.
The short answer is that, yes, we are still requesting that people wear them to Mass at this time. If there is a medical reason that a person can’t wear a mask, let us know so we can accommodate.
I want to say right up front, of course, that this isn’t my decision. It is the Archbishop’s decision, and even if I disagreed with it I’d have to follow it, but I don’t disagree. I think it is still a prudent and effective policy moving forward for the time being, and I hope that you will continue to do so.
I have received emails from parishioners with scientific research showing that Masks do not work. I have read through these as best as I can, and none of them really convince me that we should deviate from this policy right now. The biggest reason is that most of the research has to do with settings and circumstances that are very different from ours.
For example, I have seen several studies tracking the effectiveness of cloth masks in hospital settings where there is a lot of physical contact between a sick person and a health care provider. This isn’t our concern at Mass, however, since we don't have high levels of physical contact. Our biggest concern is a crowd setting where people aren’t engaging in lots of close physical contact.
In these situations Masks still seem to be effective. Evidence of this is that there have been thousands of Masses in the Archdiocese of Seattle in the last year, and there has yet to be a transmission when these protocols were followed, let alone an instance of a “Super Spreader” event. (There was a single instance of a transmission that occurred at a choir rehearsal, but this is the only known instance of a transmission when protocols were followed)
All this being said, I also want to acknowledge that this cannot go on forever. This year has been very difficult for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Lockdowns might have been fine if you are retired, but if you own a business, lockdowns spelled nothing but stress and anxiety. Schools closing may have been fine if you don’t have kids, but for many children this was a lost year of childhood and a waste of a year of education.
Sheltering in place may have been a breeze if you had a big spacious home with lots of toys to entertain you, but if you lived in a small, crowded, poorly ventilated apartment that smells like the animals of a former tenant, sheltering in place was a taste of Hell. Yes, there were people protesting a bit prematurely, but most people went along with restrictions despite the personal challenges they faced. I'd like to see us all stop judging others who are ready to take their masks off and start thanking them that they wore them for so long.
As time goes on the likelihood of encountering unmasked individuals is going to increase and that includes our parish. It is time to prepare for that. We are going to have to accept that we are not going to be able to protect people from this disease with our current measures forever.
So, thank you to everyone who has helped get us through this year and for those who have continued to do so. Let’s continue to treat each other with love and respect and always try to make ourselves aware of the challenges our neighbors are facing.