It’s Nice to Meet You, Please Pass the Purell

shake hand

Have you noticed the hand sanitizer everywhere lately? I have — and I’m thankful for it! Apparently hospitals, firehouses, churches, and even taxi drivers are all stocking up on the Purell, or some other brand of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The fear of H1N1, or the Swine Flu, appears to be changing the way we socialize. Churches both in the United States and overseas are changing the way they do some things in order to prevent the spread of the infection.

Diligent sanitizing along with social distancing have come on the forefront of the culture with the fear of the spread of swine flu, especially where people gather. In the United States, there are several examples of what people are doing to be more cautious:

  • “Indiana: Magazines were removed from waiting areas and toys aren’t being shared at two hospitals run by St. Elizabeth Regional Health in Lafayette.
  • Florida: At Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Cocoa, the communion cup is sidelined, hand sanitizer is used before communion wafers are distributed, and parishioners’ “exchange of peace” is suspended.
  • Utah: Paul Silvestri, head football trainer at the University of Utah, tells players to wash their hands and avoid sharing towels. Hand sanitizers are “all over the building,” he says, and even door handles in the training room are sanitized daily.”

But, that’s not all. In Kansas, at the Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, they have incorporated a second waiting room for patients exhibiting flu symptoms. In this room, everything — including chairs, stethoscopes, charts, and even pens — is disinfected after each patient. They are not taking any chances.
The Durham Fire Department in North Carolina no longer allows tours of the firefighters’ living quarters. And for the part of the tour that remains, including climbing into the trucks, all children have to clean their hands before getting started.

But it’s not just in the United States where people are changing their protocols. The United Kingdom is making some adjustments of its own. The Church of England recently stopped the practice of a shared Communion chalice due to H1N1 fears:

“The archbishops of Canterbury and York said the church’s worship needed to ‘take into account the interests of public health during the current phase of the swine flu pandemic.’”

Part of the reason for this move was the double rate of infection in Britain within one week. That is, there were 55,000 reported cases the previous week and the very next week the health department recorded 100,000 cases. That puts pressure on gathering sites, like places of worship, to be much more careful.

Muslim mosques are also taking note. The Muslim Council of Britain reminded all their imams to not share the towels they use for ritual cleansing before worship.

Some churches traditionally have water fountains in front of them for parishioners to bless themselves before entering worship. The Anglican churches in the Diocese of Chelmsford, just east of London, have emptied out all the water from their fountains until the epidemic ends.

Do you think that these changes are necessary? Are they smart adjustments to protect people? Or do you feel that these are examples of people going overboard because they are scared? Smart or scared, what do you think?

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