An Update to the Bishop’s New COVID-19 Safety Plan
May 14, 2021 • Kathleen Bagg

After careful study, consultation with the clergy, and the guidance of medical experts, Bishop Felipe Estévez will lift the general dispensation from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, effective May 22. A particular dispensation remains in effect for those members of the diocese who have underlying health conditions, the aged, infirm, and those who are caregivers for them. Click here or visit to obtain a copy of the bishop’s letter and details about the particular dispensations.

“I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to all the faithful of the diocese for bearing up patiently and prayerfully through a very challenging time in the history of our diocese. All of us have lost friends and loved ones due to COVID-19, and I continue to keep you and your families in my prayers,” said Bishop Estévez in his letter to the faithful on May 4, 2021.

In addition to lifting the general dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation, Bishop Estévez issued the first phase of the COVID-19 Safety Plan for the Diocese of St. Augustine. The plan, which represents a combination of previously released protocols, details how parishes can move forward towards more normal operations, taking a gradual phased approach, with a watchful eye on the developments and guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH).

Pastors and their pastoral staff are responsible for the safe and prudent execution of the plan, recognizing that every parish has unique circumstances. The goal is to continue to provide a safe place for worship while maintaining a level of confidence for all the people of God.

On May 13, the CDC eased the mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and most indoor settings. The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.

“As has been our policy throughout the pandemic, we continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC. In light of the new CDC guidance, the diocese will no longer require the wearing of masks for a fully vaccinated person, nor will we require proof of vaccination or ask if persons are vaccinated,” said Deacon Michael Elison, chancellor of the diocese. He added, “all other diocesan protocols remain in place.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said the long-awaited change is thanks to the millions of people who have gotten vaccinated and is based on the latest science about how well the shots are working.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” said Walensky. However, she said, “people who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors.”

The new mask guidelines for the diocese are effective immediately. The bishop’s dispensation for attending Sunday Mass will be lifted on May 22.

And while millions of Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19, encourage your friends and loved ones to get vaccinated if they can. This includes children 12 years of age and older. For more information, visit