Q: Have you been involved with any hospitals? The hospitals here are significantly strengthening their infection control procedures and we have been asked by the diocese to propose a protocol for the giving of Communion in hospitals during the time of a pandemic. (We are expecting that this is going to go on for at least another year, or more.)
Because of exposure to the air in the hospital, multiple hands touching a pyx full of hosts (before making it to the patient), and multiple times of going back in the tabernacle after rounds… — in summary, multiple points of human contact before reception — the hospital infection control experts and we are recommending individually wrapped hosts (which one company is already selling).
A: The best practice for communion to the sick, even outside the pandemic, is for them to receive hosts just consecrated at Mass. The minister goes from Mass to the bedside without stopping. The tabernacle should not be involved.
In a pandemic situation, a sacristan with sanitized hands ideally prepares a host in a pyx that goes to the altar for consecration. The priest opens the pyx for the eucharistic prayer, and closes it afterwards. A minister then carries the pyx to the sick.
I understand that people have had to take extraordinary measures during the pandemic to practice love of neighbor. Some of these have justly minimized sound liturgical principles. But were the ideals of the liturgy can be preserved, they should be, for the integrity of the sacraments.