The deadly flu epidemic is continuing to sweep across California leaving nearly 100 people dead including a local mother of five. Now to combat the virus, many Catholic churches across the country have temporarily put a stop to some mass traditions including right here in Bakersfield.
Father Flores of St.Jospeh Catholic Church told 23abc that implementing safety methods is the best way to prevent the flu from spreading at church.
"Even when the weather is not too cold we had to stop immediately." Father Miguel Flores of St.Joseph Catholic Church said.
Along with many other church goers in the community, Flores has based his shared faith off certain practices daily.
"Basically it's the center in the Catholic church of our faith to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ," Father Flores said.
Most Catholic denominations like St. Joseph Catholic Church, distribute Holy Communion after the reading of the gospel. Hundreds of people then drink wine from the same glass at the end of service, as a symbol of the blood of Jesus Christ.
"I mean the whole week and the weekend it can be probably around 8,000 people," Father Flores added.
Flores said he has been doing his best to protect his church family from contracting the flu virus by halting wine distribution all together and altering the way the body of Christ symbols like bread are given out daily.
Father Flores places bread in each person's palm instead of directly in their mouth.
"To help avoid touching the tongue because the saliva is coming from that person, to another person and sometimes to me," Father Flores said.
As of January 19, there were 74 confirmed flu deaths by the California Department of Public Health, including one in Bakersfield.
Kern County Public Health Public Relations official Michelle Corson also echoed the same message as Flores, “The flu can live on hard surfaces as well."
Corson hopes other churches in the community take precautions, just like Flores has been.
"Different churches that practice communion we just ask that they evaluate their processes and be as sanitary as they possibly can,” Corson said. "I'm trying to do my best every single day," Flores concluded.
23abc reached out to several other churches in the community to see if they too are implementing safety methods during service and haven't heard back.
Public Health said if you do attend church regularly it's best to stay home if you are experiencing flu like symptoms.