Coronavirus sickness fears have triggered the Archdiocese of Brooklyn to stop serving sacramental wine during Mass at nearly 200 churches serving 1.5 million Catholics.
The order to pause the religious practice was made last weekend and continues until further notice, Univision 41 Investiga has learned from a priest in Queens.
Last weekend, Bishop Nicholas Anthony DiMarzio instructed the 186 parishes under his leadership to halt the communal drinking of wine, a religious rite observed weekly by Catholics that represents the drinking of Jesus Christ's blood.
However, churches will continue to distribute the other half of the Holy Eucharist: bread. Priests and deacons distribute by hand wafers that represent -- and that Catholics believe truly embodies -- the body of Christ.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn Archdiocese said the move was spurred by the advent of flu season and is a precautionary measure that has been taken in previous years during the winter months and flu season.
However, Very Rev. Brian P. Down, pastor of Queen of Angels Church in Queens told churchgoers this Sunday that the order was given to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Dowd said that the measure has been implemented in the past because of the flu. The archiocese took a similar approach in 2018.
The bishop's decision impacts 1.5 million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens.
It is yet unclear if the deadly, new respiratory illness -- which began in China -- has reached New York City. The virus, which is highly contagious, has quickly spread across the world to internationally-connected cities in Germany, Thailand, and even the United States. A patient could be infected for 2 to 14 days before flu-like symptoms appear, making it easier for a person to spread the virus without knowing.
New York City health officials have investigated at least four possible cases in recent days, but all have come back negative.
Public fears seem aimed at Chinese population, given that human infections began in the major Chinese city of Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province. New York City has also witnessed numerous hate crimes against Asians in recent days. The largest Chinese communities in New York are found at Chinatown in Lower Manhattan and Flushing in Queens.
Sunday marked a major Chinese celebration, and City Health Commisioner Oxiris Barbot called for unity.
"Today our city is celebrating the #LunarNewYear parade in Chinatown, a beautiful cultural tradition with a rich history in our city. I want to remind everyone to enjoy the parade and not change any plans due to misinformation spreading about #coronavirus," she tweeted on Sunday morning.