Coronavirus Advisory

Anointing of the Sick Directives

Given from Savannah, GA on March 27, 2020.

Informed by best practice recommendations of health care professionals, including Dr. Anthony Costrini, Head Ethicist of Saint Joseph/Candler Hospital, the Diocese of Savannah has established the following guidance for clergy providing sacramental ministry during this time of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak to persons suspected to be or known to be carriers of COVID-19.


  • No priest or deacon in the high-risk group (i.e., over 60).
  • No priest or deacon with a chronic illness that places him at risk. For example: hypertension, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, any cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, COPD, heart disease.
  • These restrictions follow the healthcare guidance that indicate younger, healthier individuals are at a much-diminished risk of contracting a serious case of COVID-19.


  • If this is performed in a hospital or healthcare facility, the guidelines for protective measures, including garments, prevail. Beware that most hospitals and healthcare facilities currently prohibit pastoral care visits inhibiting our ability to anoint the sick. We must abide by these directives because they are for our own health and safety.
  • If absolutely unable to make a pastoral visit, find a creative manner to reach the patient (i.e. telephone call, video call, etc.).
  • If this is not performed in a hospital or healthcare facility:
    • If available, latex gloves should be worn unless the patient or priest has an allergic sensitivity to latex.
    • Additionally, if available, protective eye wear (a pair of glasses will suffice) should be worn. Eyeglasses or goggles or eye protectors can be re-used BUT MUST be cleaned immediately after each visit with Lysol/Clorox wipes or washed with soap and water.
  • All liturgical items should be sanitized before entering the home (oil stock, ritual book, pyx, etc.) and after leaving. Use bleach wipes or disinfectant for the sanitizing of supplies.
  • The anointing may be done with a cotton-tipped swab or a cotton ball which is to be burned or buried after use.
  • Do not contaminate the sacred oil. For each anointing, use a new cotton ball (or “Q-tip”) and new oil on the cotton. (You are also permitted to use the cotton ball, and not your thumb, to anoint the head.) In the case of pastoral necessity, the hands do not need to be anointed.
  • If the priest uses his gloved hand, the glove is to be burned or buried after the visit.
  • If Holy Communion is given, it is to be distributed in the hand.
  • Maintain social distance (six feet) with everyone in the room, except the patient.
  • Do not offer comfort with any physical contact.
Hospitals, nursing homes and adult family homes already have a clear and effective process in place so priests who are allowed in those facilities will not have to self-quarantine after anointing someone with the coronavirus in a hospital setting.


Ministries of visitation and administering Holy Communion to the homebound, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and the elderly by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) are recommended to be suspended by the pastor. If you are a part of this ministry or activity, please consider calling those you visit instead of making the usual personal visitation. For emergencies that require a visitation or last rites, our clergy will make decisions about how best to minister to these people.