For Immediate Release April 07, 2020

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Jania Matthews:

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With the Passover and Easter holidays landing in the middle of a global pandemic, the need for individuals to balance medical advice around health and safety while still observing these religious holidays poses unique challenges.

"For many, this may be the first time they prepare Seder dinner for only those in their immediate household or don't attend church service on Easter Sunday, but what we know about our faith traditions is that they are timeless and are infused with messages of hope," said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer of University of Maryland Medical System.

"While members of our communities are all celebrating religious traditions differently this year, the challenges of COVID-19 are driving all of us to be uniquely bonded across different faiths by this shared experience," Dr. Suntha added.

Medical experts are reinforcing the need for social distancing, vigorous hand washing, wearing masks and avoiding in-person gatherings as the most effective ways to help limit the community spread of COVID-19. Recognizing a need to focus on religious traditions and observances, doctors are encouraging individuals to take advantage of alternatives to mass gatherings, such as:

  • Virtual services offered by many houses of worship on their website, Facebook page, and other online platforms.
  • Video chat technology such as Zoom and FaceTime, which offer an opportunity to personally connect with family members and celebrate the holidays.
  • Enjoy a smaller celebration with immediate family now, and hold a larger celebration when the pandemic is over.
  • Cook traditional foods at home to enjoy the familiar tastes and smells of the holiday, and share photos and video via social media and direct communications with friends and family.

"Now, more than ever, maintaining a robust spiritual connection with others even as we maintain safe social distancing is crucial," added Thomas B. Smyth, MD, President & CEO of UM St. Joseph Medical Center. "This connection fuels the purpose and the calling of every health care professional: To provide loving service and compassionate care."

Dr. Smyth stressed the importance of health care workers focusing on the critical work they do each and every day. "Most importantly, we are asking staff to take these holidays to heart, and to remember how these celebrations affirm the power and purpose of life and celebrate God's enduring protection. This is the very essence of what we do as health care workers. It's my hope that, however our staff members are able to recognize the holidays during this time of uncertainty, they take strength and comfort in knowing that they are doing God's work, which is the very best way to honor this sacred time."

Adam Rosenblatt, MD, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, suggested individuals who may be experiencing tension, loneliness, irritability, anxiety, or despair use this time to connect with family and friends via the phone or technology to see personal faces.

"As we approach this holiday season, because of COVID-19 and stay at home orders, many people will not be able to spend Passover or Easter with their families and friends, which will be especially difficult because these are holidays where people are used to having lots of company," Dr. Rosenblatt said. "Or people may be forced to spend the holidays with housemates or family members with whom they are experiencing tension. My advice is for everyone to reach out to individuals who can be a source of support."

More information about the UMMS response to the global pandemic can be found on our dedicated COVID-19 information webpage, https://www.umms.org/coronavirus.

About the University of Maryland Medical System

The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) is a university-based regional health care system focused on serving the health care needs of Maryland, bringing innovation, discovery and research to the care we provide and educating the state's future physician and health care professionals through our partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the UM Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Social Work and Dentistry in Baltimore. As one of the largest private employers in the State, the health system's 28,000 employees and 4,000 affiliated physicians provide primary and specialty care in more than 150 locations and at 13 hospitals. UMMS' flagship academic campus, the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore is partnered with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is recognized regionally and nationally for excellence and innovation in specialized care. Our acute care and specialty rehabilitation hospitals serve urban, suburban and rural communities and are located in 13 counties across the State. In addition, UMMS operates health insurance plans serving Medicare and Medicaid members. For more information, visit www.umms.org.

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