Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans in Rome Jan 26 2012. Photo credit: Alan Holdren CNA
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Washington D.C., Mar 23, 2020 CNA.- The Archbishop of New Orleans has tested positive for coronavirus. He is the first U.S. bishop known to have tested positive for the virus, which is now a global pandemic.
“Recently, I had very mild symptoms, which included fever only. Out of an abundance of caution, I took the Coronavirus test which came back positive,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond announced March 23.
“I have notified those with whom I have been in close proximity. Needless to say, I have self-quarantined in order to be responsible and not affect others. I will use this quiet time for additional prayer and sacrifice for all those seriously affected by the virus,” the archbishop wrote.
“I pray to get well soon and continue ministry. In the meantime, I will be present through Facebook and the archdiocesan website with reflection on this crisis and God’s healing power. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us! Blessed Seelos, pray for us!”
Aymond, 70, has been Archbishop of New Orleans since 2009. He was previously Bishop of Austin and an auxiliary bishop in the New Orleans archdiocese.
At least 5 U.S. priests are known to have the virus, and on Friday, an Franciscan friar and deacon became the first U.S. cleric known to have died of the virus.
More than 366,000 people have contracted COVID-19 as of Monday morning. More than 16,000 people have died and 101,000 have recovered from the disease so far.
A priest in the Diocese of Yakima, Washington was the first U.S. priest known to be diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 15, and a second Yakima priest was announced to have the virus March 23. Fr. Stephen Planning, SJ, president of DC's Gonzaga College High School, announced last week he also has the virus. Two priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn were also diagnosed with the virus last week.
On Saturday, Brother John-Sebastian Laird-Hammond, OFM, became the first American cleric known to have died after contracting the virus. The 59 year-old deacon had been battling leukemia for years when he became ill with the disease.
In Italy, more than 60 priests have died from the virus. On Monday, Avvenire, the newspaper owned by the Italian bishops conference, published the names of 51 diocesan priests who died after contracting COVID-19, and noted that religious communities in Italy had also reported nine coronavirus related deaths.
At least one Italian bishop is known to be recovering from the virus.
The majority of the deceased were over the age of 70 years old, and some of these priests had underlying health conditions.
The youngest priest to die from COVID-19 in Italy was Fr. Paolo Camminati, who died in the hospital on March 21 at age 53.
Every Latin rite diocese in the United States has suspended the public celebration of Mass, and church buildings remain closed to the public in many places, with weddings, funerals and confirmations all indefinitely suspended.
Several states have brought emergency measures to combat the spread of the virus, with California, New York and Maryland acting to close non-essential businesses and encourage people to remain in their homes. Before he was diagnosed with the virus, Aymond called for a “Day of Prayer and Fasting” to take place March 27 in his archdiocese.
“Please spend additional time in prayer seeking God’s healing and compassion in this crisis. Also, we can fast from whatever we wish. Say to the Lord as we are hungry – I hunger for you more than I hunger for food, social media, spending time with others, etc,” Aymond wrote March 19.
“Be assured of my prayers daily and a remembrance at Mass. God is faithful and, in his time, and his way we will come to experience healing and peace. We must wait patiently which is no easy task,” the archbishop added.