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A Catholic priest who questioned the coronavirus restrictions—saying in a recent opinion article that “getting sick and even eventually dying is a part of living in this world”—contracted the disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, and now his church’s parishioners have to quarantine.
DC Health is telling anyone who took communion at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Capitol Hill between July 25 and July 27 to quarantine for 14 days. The priest there, Monsignor Charles Pope, was hospitalized on July 27 after experiencing a fever, according to the Post, and tested positive that afternoon.
It’s unclear if anyone else at the church tested positive. DC Health would only say that contact tracing shows additional people have been exposed to the coronavirus, and did not respond to this reporter’s request for further comment. The health department made the same quarantine request of Christ Church Georgetown parishioners in mid-March, after Rev. Timothy Cole and a church organist, Tom Smith, tested positive for COVID-19.
Cole’s reflection of contracting the disease reads differently than Pope’s. Cole was the first D.C. resident to test positive in D.C. and was hospitalized for 18 days. “However hard the cost may be, we know there will come a point where we can see the end,” Cole told the Post in an article published in late March.
In a video published Aug. 1 on YouTube, Pope downplays contracting COVID-19, saying he had pneumonia once and his experience now is a “walk in the park compared to that.” He recognizes COVID-19 has killed many‚ but just after says it kills a small percentage of the total number infected. Shutting down the church for a week or so remains the “greatest pain” for him. It’s unknown how Pope’s parishioners might receive Pope’s video message, and if they’ll heed DC Health’s quarantine request given the priest’s minimizing of the coronavirus.
“When will we say ‘hey it’s safe to play in the park again. It’s safe to hug each other. It’s safe to see each other’s beautiful faces.’ That still remains my concern even after having contracted this,” Pope says. “The main thing to battle here is fear.”
The thing is some public health experts recommend, say, meeting a friend in the park—just wear a mask and social distance—because they recognize human interaction and exercise are good for one’s health and there’s a way to weigh risk now that we know more about the coronavirus. Outdoor activities are lower risk than indoor, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some other facts to keep in mind, given the priest’s comments: COVID-19 has killed over 580 District residents within five months, and over 689,000 worldwide. In D.C., people dying of the disease are grandmothers like Maria Morales, health care workers like Noel Sinkiat, and teachers like Mardena Dobson. And this disease is disproportionately killing Black people due to structural racism. In the District, Black people makeup 46 percent of the total population but 74 percent of total COVID-19 deaths.
And public health experts have not said we’ve been overdoing it, but continue to say we are not doing enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Indeed, it appears as though the United States has given up, with businesses reopening and the virus still omnipresent. In D.C., COVID-19 cases are steadily increasing.
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