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Local synagogues issue guidelines addressing coronavirus

Denver synagogues and temples have issued warnings to congregants as the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, spreads in the US. Two presumptive positive cases were confirmed by Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday, March 5.

Most of the bulletins reiterate the health measures that help prevent transmission of infections, namely:

  • Washing one’s hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom and before eating;
  • Covering one’s cough or sneeze, preferably with a tissue that is immediately disposed of. If no tissue is available, make sure to cough or sneeze into one’s sleeve or elbow;
  • Avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Keep a hand sanitizer handy for when one is unable to wash one’s hands.

Following these guidelines help stop the spread of infections in general, including the spread of flu.

Concern has arisen regarding social gatherings and the spread of coronavirus and other infections. With Purim approaching, synagogues outlined guidelines for participating in synagogue and other holiday events.

If someone has flu-like symptoms, including fever, vomiting, diarrhea or an upper respiratory infection, one is advised to stay at home and not participate in any communal activities, including religious obligations of hearing the Megillah on Purim or the recitation of Parshat Zachor this Shabbat, March 7. This also include those who need to recite Kaddish.

Many of the synagogue bulletins reiterate Judaism’s ultimate consideration for protecting and preserving one’s health, which supersedes almost all other religious obligations.

Currently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have a recommendation of self-isolation if one is feeling healthy and is not considered at risk for having or contracting novel coronavirus. However, many synagogues are asking that people avoid shaking people’s hands and other physical contact at social gatherings.

Temple Emanuel has asked congregants not to kiss the Torah during the Torah procession. Congregants are also encouraged to use utensils at onegs and other communal meals.

Many synagogues also reported that they are ensuring that hand sanitizers are readily available at building entrances.

Said Rabbi Yaakov Chaitovsky and Jeff Kline of BMH-BJ: “Purim teaches us that we can rejoice in G-d’s protection despite being aware of our own vulnerability. In that spirit we wish you a Shabbat Shalom and joyous Purim, together with our prayers for your health and the health of your loved ones.

“We pray that G-d should bless the medical professionals and public health officials with the wisdom to overcome this disease and provide comfort and healing to all who suffer.”

(Information current as of March 6, 2020, 10:33 a.m.)

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