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School Information – COVID-19

March 25, 2020 Alert: Governor Baker Extends School Closures to May 4

Good Afternoon,

In his press conference that just ended, Governor Charlie Baker extended the statewide school closure until early May.

From the Boston Globe:

“Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has extended the shutdown of state schools into early May, in the latest step to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Baker said all schools, public and private, and all non-emergency day care facilities would be shut down until Monday, May 4. On March 15, Baker had ordered a three-week shutdown of schools, beginning March 17 and lasting until April 7. Boston officials had already ordered schools closed until April 27.”

In Christ,
Tom

Thomas W. Carroll
Superintendent of Schools

March 20 Risk Alert - Unoccupied Buildings

With the closure of schools and parishes as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, please continue to be mindful of the safety of your building and grounds. Unoccupied buildings are often the target of theft and vandalism. Please be vigilant and ask your custodian to do the following:
  • Make sure there are no accessible ladders, tools or other objects that could assist a burglar with a break-in.
  • Make sure all valuables are stored away from access points. Criminals are frequently enticed to break in if there are expensive items, such as electronic equipment, visible from a window.
  • Secure all PCs, laptops or any other device or files that contain confidential information.
  • Look for easy access points into any buildings, specifically focusing on doors, windows and locks. If any of these are faulty, they should be replaced immediately.
  • Keep bushes and shrubs near your building trimmed. This will eliminate hiding places in the shadows. This will also allow your building to be more visible from the street, which will make noticing suspicious activity easier.
  • Remove tree branches below 7’ from trees adjacent to the building and keep shrubbery trimmed below four feet.
  • Adequate lighting on your premises is essential and will prevent criminals from lingering too close to your building. Make sure light fixtures are operational.
  • Is exterior storage of trash/rubbish at least 25 feet from building?
  • Ask local police to increase patrols of your area.
Custodians should conduct daily walk-throughs of every building, as well as the grounds. Look for the following:
  • Signs of forced entry.
  • Open windows or doors left ajar.
  • Interior water leaks.
  • Items that are not properly stored.
  • Valuable items left out in plain sight.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Winter is still here! This Saturday night, temperatures are expected to be in the 20-degree range. Please continue to maintain the heat in unoccupied buildings. Maintain a temperature of at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if there is a cold spell, please be certain to maintain a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent frozen pipes.
COVID-19 Hotline and Email
We have a dedicated hotline available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm: 617-746-5750.
You can also email us at corona@rcab.org.

March 16 Risk Alert - Cyber Scams

On the afternoon of Friday, March 13, the RCAB Network was infected by a crypto virus that impacted a significant number of department files. Many files were encrypted and rendered unusable.  Original versions of these files are now being restored from backup.

The malware was introduced onto the RCAB network by one or more users browsing Coronavirus mapping / tracking websites.   If the progress of this infection was not stopped then all files would have been encrypted and the Archdiocese would have been held to ransom.

To help prevent a similar malware infection on your parish or school network please take the following precautions:

  1. Only access well known and reliable sources for information and maps of Covid-19.  These include:

Do not simply google and click links for this type of information. Hackers are using Covid-19 as a cover for placing malware on computers. There are reported malware infected versions of the John Hopkins University Covid-19 mapping website. Infected sites aim to steal account login information or to install ransomware (crypto viruses).

  1. Do not click on any links in emails you may receive from unknown sources with information about the coronavirus. Do not open attachments including pdf files. If the email appears to come from a government agency, health authority or some other group or organization, do not click on any included links or open attachments.
  2. Ensure any accounts you access using an office computer are protected with a complex password and always use two factor authentication where this is an option. This includes all web-based business-related accounts as well as parish/school managed Facebook and other social media accounts.
  3. Pay extra attention to activity on all banking accounts. Variants of the Covid-19 malware include those specifically designed to steal login credentials and banking information. Report any strange or unexpected activity.
  4. Be sure to maintain full backups of all your computer files. Test your backups by performing a file recovery.  In the event your files are corrupted or encrypted by ransomware a backup will be your ONLY option to recover your documents and files.
  5. Ensure that all parish and school computers have a reliable business-class anti-malware solution, e.g., Malwarebytes.
  6. Ensure all parish and school computers are suitably updated and patched with operating system and software updates.
  7. Windows 7 computers should not be used. Upgrade or replace them immediately.

Please follow the same recommendations when using your home computers.

This most recent round of Covid-19 related malware is new and is aimed at taking advantage of an already difficult situation. Anti-malware is not yet available to prevent infection; therefore, it is up to users to be extremely careful. Each person using a computer bares a responsibility to be cautious.

Please forward this advisory to all parish and school staff as appropriate.

March 13, 2020 Guidance from John Straub

Further to Cardinal Sean’s March 12 announcement, we are providing updated guidance and additional details to parishes and schools:

  • All Masses and, except as provided below, religious services in all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries are suspended until further notice. This suspension begins at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon, March 14. To be clear, there are to be no vigil Masses.
  • The Cardinal has issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston.
  • Baptism, Confirmations, weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to only immediate family.
  • All other social events, fundraising activities, or other functions should be canceled or postponed until further notice.
  • All field trips, service trips, youth group trips and retreats should be postponed or canceled until further notice.
  • Private Masses may continue.
  • Parish offices will remain open during this time.
  • The Archdiocesan Pastoral Center will remain open during this time.
  • Faith formation and related activities have been suspended until further notice.
  • Extraordinary ministers will suspend services to nursing homes, private homes, and hospitals until further notice.
  • Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and Archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27. Going forward we will consider whether this period needs to be extended.
    • All Catholic schools are urged to make their best effort to provide ongoing learning and provide meals to any students eligible for free or reduced priced lunch. These meals should be offered to students without entering the building; box meals are allowed.
    • Schools should take advantage of this time to ensure their custodial personnel or cleaning services conduct a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the entire facility.

The events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic can be very stressful for all, and especially for our brothers and sisters who are working on their respective recoveries and others in need. In an effort to continue to provide spiritual and community support to these individuals, please note:

  • Regularly scheduled recovery support group (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon) meetings may continue.
  • Food pantries and soup kitchens should remain open at this time.
  • We will continue to offer the Anointing of the Sick by clergy.

Across all of these operations, comply with CDC guidelines, including special consideration for meetings with high risk individuals (limit gatherings to no more than 10) and following the usual practices of good hygiene:

  • Frequent hand washing (using hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol when soap and water are unavailable)
  • Protecting your coughs and sneezes with tissues disposed of immediately, or coughing into your elbow if tissues are not available
  • Cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces often
  • Avoiding contact with people who are ill, if possible
  • Maintaining a distance of six feet from others

Please share the above-noted CDC guidelines with the various outside groups who use your parish space and encourage them to follow basic hygiene and cleaning practices when using parish facilities.

March 12, 2020 Guidance from Cardinal

In response to growing public concern and following Governor Baker’s Emergency Order prohibiting most gatherings of 250 or more people, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, has made the decision effective immediately to temporarily suspend all daily and Sunday Masses and religious services in the Archdiocese of Boston until further notice.  This begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, March 14. In announcing this decision, the Cardinal has also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Cardinal Seán said “We live in times when many people are confused, hurt, and fearful, for many different reasons. In the midst of these challenges Jesus seeks to meet us in the same way He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, accompanying us on the journey, calming our fears and anxieties and assuring us that He will be with us always in the gift of the Eucharist. This decision to temporarily suspend the daily and Sunday Mass is motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness.”

The directive to temporarily suspend the celebration of Mass applies to all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries until further notice. Baptism, Confirmations, weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to only immediate family.

CATHOLIC TV DAILY AND SUNDAY MASS

  • Cardinal Seán encourages Catholics to participate in the daily and Sunday Masses broadcast from the CatholicTV chapel.
  • Daily Mass airs live at 9:30 a.m. and is rebroadcast at 7 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
  • Sunday Masses air throughout the day at 10 a.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 11:30 p.m.
  • The Sunday Spanish Mass airs live at 8 a.m. and is rebroadcast at 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Viewers can watch these Masses on demand at any time at www.WatchtheMass.com. For more information about CatholicTV and where you can watch it, visit http://www.catholictv.org/

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
Earlier today after conferring with Cardinal Seán, Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, announced that Archdiocese of Boston parish schools and Archdiocesan elementary and high schools will be closed for two weeks from Monday, March 16 to Friday, March 27. On an ongoing basis, the Catholic Schools Office will consider whether this period needs to be extended further.

The Archdiocese will provide ongoing updates to parishes, schools and ministries during this period of response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Cardinal Seán said, “Though these are challenging times for our parishes and all members of our communities is important that we not forget the importance of care and concern for those who are most vulnerable, including the poor, our senior citizens and people who are medically compromised. I urge those who can do so to maintain the support for their parish during these difficult days in order to sustain the ministries and outreach services for parishioners and those most in need. We entrust the Church to the intercession of our Blessed Mother as we pray for the return to full celebration of the sacraments and community prayer as soon as possible.”

Following the decision to temporarily suspend daily and Sunday Masses in the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal O’Malley has asked that all parishes provide for their churches be open every day during reasonable hours in order that the Catholic faithful and other members of the community can have the opportunity to visit the church for times of prayer. The Cardinal has also asked that when possible there be exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the churches.

Cardinal Sean said,” When we visit our churches outside of Mass and see the red glow of the sanctuary lamp we know that Jesus is there with us. The presence of the Eucharist in the tabernacle and during times of Adoration is a sign that Jesus silently and lovingly waits for us, always ready to receive and console us. May our prayers in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament be a source of strength and peace until we can safely resume the celebration of Mass for all members of the Catholic community in our Archdiocese and all who would wish to join us at that time.”

March 5 Letter from Superintendent

March 5, 2020

Dear School Leaders,

The coronavirus situation is constantly changing. We strongly recommend that each school designate a point person to regularly check CDC.gov for updates and new information. Use this information to formulate the appropriate response for your school community. Information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/. The CDC also posted guidance for schools and businesses at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/index.html.

We recommend that you consult the websites listed above as well as your local health department officials if your school has students, faculty, or staff, including their household members, who have travelled to or through countries with a CDC Geo Risk/Travel Restriction Level 2 (related to COVID-19) or above, within the past 14 days. Effective Monday, March 9, these individuals should remain at home and monitor their health until the recommended CDC monitoring period of 14 days has passed or, if symptoms develop, remain home until their physician has determined that it is safe for them to return to school. This recommendation should remain in effect until the circumstances change or until we issue further recommendations. We recommend that you prepare distance learning protocols for students asked to remain at home in order to minimize disruption to their education.

We are requesting that all schools suspend all international travel for the time being.

The Catholic Schools Office released guidelines on Friday, February 28, regarding steps to take to prevent the spread of illness, including the coronavirus. We encourage you to share these resources with your school community and let the community know the steps taken at your school, such as how often surfaces are cleaned and disinfected. As a reminder, these steps include frequent handwashing (using hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content when soap and water are unavailable); protecting your coughs and sneezes with tissues disposed of immediately, or coughing into your elbow if tissues are not available; cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces often; and avoiding contact with people who are ill, if possible.

Please understand that our primary interest is in keeping your school’s students, staff and volunteers as safe as possible.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Associate Superintendent Daniel Roy at 617-779-3607 or Daniel_roy@rcab.org.

Sincerely,

Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Joseph McEnness, Executive Director, Office of Risk Management

March 4 Letter from Superintendent

March 4, 2020

Dear School Leaders,

The coronavirus situation is constantly changing. We strongly recommend that each school designate a point person to constantly check CDC.gov for updates and new information. Use this information to formulate the appropriate response for your school community. Information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/. The CDC also posted guidance for schools and businesses at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/index.html.

We recommend that you consult the websites listed above as well as your local health department officials if your school has students, faculty, or staff who have travelled to or through countries with a CDC Geo Risk/Travel Restriction Level 2 (related to COVID-19) or above, within the past 14 days. These individuals should remain home until the recommended CDC monitoring period of 14 days has passed or, if symptoms develop, remain home until their physician has determined that it is safe for them to return to school. We recommend that you prepare distance learning protocols for students asked to remain at home in order to minimize disruption to their education.

We are requesting that all schools suspend international travel for the time being.

The Catholic Schools Office released guidelines Friday, February 28, regarding steps to take to prevent the spread of illness, including the coronavirus. We encourage you to share these resources with your school community and let the community know the steps taken at your school, such as how often surfaces are cleaned and disinfected. As a reminder, these steps include frequent handwashing (using hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol when soap and water are unavailable); protecting your coughs and sneezes with tissues disposed of immediately, or coughing into your elbow if tissues are not available; cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces often; and avoiding contact with people who are ill, if possible.

Sincerely,

Thomas W. Carroll, Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Joseph McEnness, Executive Director, Office of Risk Management

Risk Alert February 28, 2020

The Archdiocese of Boston, through the Office of Risk Management, is monitoring the situation related to the coronavirus outbreak and updating relevant planning guides should the situation warrant in the Commonwealth.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

As of February 26, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the virus is NOT currently spreading in the US, although they indicate that we need to be prepared as it is likely to become widespread. As for the Commonwealth, the first case in Massachusetts was confirmed in Boston on January 31, but the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) reports that, at this time, the risk to the public remains low.

Please keep in mind, however, that this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance. Keeping up with information issued from the CDC, the MDPH and Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) is critical. The MDPH launched a website with up to date information for the public. CDC also maintains a website with up to date info on coronavirus.  BCH’s information is available here.

Archdiocesan webpage

The Archdiocese is posting information on the homepage (www.bostoncatholic.org) including links to various websites and public information. An email for parishes, schools and ministries to seek additional information or to make inquiries for further guidance will be made available on the homepage in the coming days.

Liturgical Directives

These directives are effective Saturday, February 29, 2020 until determined otherwise by the Archbishop. The Office of Worship, in consultation with local health authorities and the Archdiocesan Office of Risk Management, continues to encourage the clergy and faithful to observe necessary standard precautions to protect the health of others during this time. The best way to prevent the spread of contagious disease is to practice good hygiene.

In addition to practicing good hygiene, the Archbishop directs the following for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and for flu prevention:

  • The Holy Water fonts are to be drained and cleaned with a disinfecting soap on a regular basis. Please note that old Holy Water should be disposed of in the sacrarium.
  • The distribution of the Precious Blood for the faithful is suspended, save for those who must receive from the cup due to severe cases of celiac disease. The faith of the Church teaches that Christ, whole and entire, is received even under only one species.
  • The exchange of the sign of peace is to be offered without any physical contact. If the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation for the sign of peace, the faithful, instead of a handshake, may bow to the persons nearby.

Further questions

Further questions related to Liturgical Directives should be forwarded to Thomas K. Lyman in the Office of Divine Worship. Tom can be reached at 617.746.5759 or via email at TLyman@rcab.org.

Additional information and guidance for schools and travel to and from the Commonwealth to impacted areas will be available on the webpage and weekly mailings.

If you have any immediate questions or concerns about the items in this advisory, please contact Joseph McEnness at 617-746-5740; email: jfm@rcab.org.