Holy Week began with Palm/Passion Sunday yesterday and it will be followed by the sacred triduum and Easter Sunday for Catholics and Christians while people of the Jewish faith celebrate the beginning of Passover on Wednesday and those of the Muslim faith begin the month long spiritual journey during Ramadan that begins on April 23.

With the most spiritual and sacred season of the year underway amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Ocean County Health and Government officials are asking religious leaders to limit human interaction and prevent social gatherings, which are currently banned via a directive from Governor Phil Murphy, and look for new ways for their community of believers to pray and practice their faith this week.

“The Governor’s Executive Order 107 is still in full force and calls for residents to stay home during Passover, Easter and Ramadan observances and refrain from social gatherings of any size until further notice,” Ocean County Freeholder Gerry Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health, said. “We certainly understand the disappointment that many people within our faith-based communities will have as they looked forward to friend and family gatherings, parties and events for the April holidays. However, this is unprecedented times and we need everyone to do their part and adhere to the law.”

“Ocean County is a diverse county with citizens representing all religions. While we all recognize our holidays, we must adhere to the mandates of social distancing and no large gatherings at this time for everyone’s safety,” Freeholder Director Joe Vicari, Chairman of Senior Services and County Operations, said.

Health officials are now asking religious leaders to offer congregations new and meaningful ways to observe services without gathering.

Many faith-based groups have turned to technology with services being live streamed or televised.

Police and local prosecutors offices will be keeping an eye on things as has been noted of late and continue to enforce the order from Governor Murphy.

"New Jersey officials have asked us to reach out to our faith-based communities and leadership in an effort to remind people how important – especially during these festive times – to stay home and follow the social distancing guidelines,” Dan Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator, said. “As much as we’d like to make an exception for the holidays it’s just not possible. I can’t stress enough how these measures can ultimately save lives.”

“Faith-based and community leaders continue to be valuable resource of comfort and support for their members and communities during times of distress and anxiety that may be caused by the COVID-19 outbreak,” Freeholder Little said. “In addition, these leaders can help us spread this important messaging regarding the current laws regarding social gatherings as we head into the heart of this joyous spring season.”

Regenye said that the COVID-19 virus can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, including when an individual coughs or sneezes.

It is a tough time for the community of believers with different religious groups but everyone must fight the temptation to gather and stay safe by praying at home during this pandemic.

Getting together for any type of gathering, religious or otherwise, is not only in violation of the law but also an unwise choice when trying to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

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