CNA Staff, Jan 6, 2021 / 03:15 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Tucson, Arizona announced new COVID-19 protocols that will require closing all churches for regular public indoor Masses from Jan. 8-Feb. 5, when the current policy will be revisited.

“A period of four weeks should make a considerable difference in the availability of the Covid vaccine for those most at risk,” Bishop Edward Weisenburger of the Diocese of Tucson said in a news release. “Hopefully it also will help us to evaluate more accurately the anticipated post-Christmas spike in infections and resulting hospitalizations.”

The new protocols say Sunday and weekday indoor Masses and gatherings are suspended. “In individual situations, and based upon local circumstances and conditions, pastors may seek permission from the Bishop to celebrate some indoor Masses,” the new protocols establish.

The new rules permit funerals and weddings to be celebrated indoors, but with a maximum of 25 people. Baptisms may have up to 10 people. No gatherings on church property are allowed before or after these celebrations.

Bishop Weisenburger stated that a “suspension of four weeks from indoor liturgies also allows us to stand in solidarity with those who are critically ill, healthcare workers, the unemployed, those grieving the loss of loved ones, and all those whose lives have been far more substantially altered.”

The protocols also provide instructions regarding proper protection and safety standards for the Anointing of the Sick.

Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new COVID-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. That rate leads the U.S. and is among the highest in the world.

Read More: CNA US News