Following policies enacted by Maryland and District of Columbia leaders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Archdiocese of Washington announced on March 25 that its Catholic schools will remain closed through Friday April 24. The Archdiocese of Washington includes 93 Catholic schools in Washington, D.C., and in the five surrounding Maryland counties of St. Mary’s, Charles, Calvert, Prince George’s and Montgomery.

That adds four more weeks to the previously announced March 16 to 27 time frame when Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington were closed due to precautions against the coronavirus.

On March 25, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon announced that Maryland public schools will be closed through April 24. 

In a March 20 letter, Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, the chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, wrote that due to “this public health emergency,” those schools would be closed through April 24 and engage in distance learning during that time frame, with classes to resume on Monday April 27. 

In an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Maryland Gov. Hogan on March 23 issued an amended executive order against large gatherings and events. The order prohibited “social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people…” On March 24, due to the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus outbreak, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued an order against public gatherings of 10 or more people “in a single room or a single confined or enclosed space.”

William Ryan, the secretary for Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, had sent letters on March 12 to parents and guardians of students attending Catholic schools in the District of Columbia and in the five surrounding Maryland counties, notifying them that following the directives of local government leaders, all archdiocesan Catholic schools and early learning centers in Maryland and all archdiocesan Catholic schools in the District of Columbia would be closed from Monday March 16 through Friday March 27.

Since then, local Catholic schools have engaged in distance learning with students who have continued their learning at home.

The Archdiocese of Washington’s March 25 announcement on the closure of its Catholic schools being extended through Friday April 24 affects parish elementary schools and early learning centers and the archdiocesan high schools, Archbishop Carroll in Washington, D.C., and Don Bosco Cristo Rey in Takoma Park, Maryland. Independent Catholic schools in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding Maryland counties, most of which are sponsored by religious orders, likewise have announced that they will be closed for set time periods due to the coronavirus outbreak, and those schools also announced plans for online learning for students at this time. The websites for those independent schools include updated information on their closures and distance learning programs.

In a March 12 statement from the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory had announced that in response to public health recommendations from local government leaders regarding the potential spread of coronavirus, Masses open to the public in all archdiocesan parishes, missions and campus ministries will not be celebrated starting this Saturday, March 14, until further notice. Weddings and funerals may proceed but should be limited to immediate family.

And following public safety directives made by Maryland Gov. Hogan and state superintendent Dr. Salmon, Archbishop Gregory had announced that all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington would be closed from March 16 through March 27.

Archbishop Gregory also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to all parishioners of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Gov. Hogan had declared a state of emergency in Maryland on March 5, after three people in Montgomery County had been diagnosed with the 2019 novel coronavirus. On March 11, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had declared a public health emergency in the District of Columbia, recommending that non-essential mass gatherings, including conferences and conventions, be postponed or cancelled through March 31. 

In the archdiocese’s March 12 statement, Archbishop Gregory said, “We are aware of the rapidly developing district and state guidelines regarding the coronavirus. My number one priority as your archbishop is to ensure the safety and health of all who attend our Masses, the children in our schools, and those we welcome through our outreach and services. Please know that this decision does not come lightly to close our schools or cancel Masses.”

As a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, many Catholic archdioceses and dioceses across the United States have canceled public Masses. In addition to the Archdiocese of Washington, those taking that step as of March 14 included the archdioceses of Seattle; Boston; Detroit; Baltimore; Chicago; Newark, New Jersey; and Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the dioceses of Salt Lake City; San Diego; Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Church officials have likewise adopted strong precautionary measures throughout the world, and the Vatican has announced that the public will not be admitted to papal Holy Week liturgies this year, after public gatherings including Masses have been banned in Italy through April 3.

The Archdiocese of Washington has a special web page at adw.org/coronavirus offering the latest updates on the situation.

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a global pandemic. As of that day, the Washington Post reported that more than 125,000 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed worldwide, causing more than 4,600 deaths, and the United States had more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in 39 states, with more than 30 deaths. Most fatal incidences of the coronavirus have involved the elderly or people with underlying medical conditions.  

Two weeks later, The Washington Post reported that on March 25 that more than 435,000 people around the world have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and the global death toll has now topped 20,000. The Post said that as of March 24, there were more than 55,000 identified cases of coronavirus infection in the United States, including more than 1,000 in the Washington, D.C., area.

Founded in 1939, the Archdiocese of Washington is home to more than 655,000 Catholics who worship in 139 parishes located  in Washington, D.C., and the five surrounding Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s. Nearly 27,000 students attend the 93 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington. Catholic Charities of the archdiocese is the largest non-public social service organization in the region, serving nearly 143,000 people each year.