Weekend concerts continue as COVID-19 concerns modify church rituals, cancel a conference in San Diego

A scene from CRSSD at San Diego's Waterfront Park in 2018.
A scene from CRSSD at San Diego’s Waterfront Park in 2018.
(Arlene Ibarra )

Catholic diocese suspends sharing Communion cup; Amnesty International scraps annual meeting


From concert venues to church pews, coronavirus concerns coalesced Wednesday around the places where people come together in large groups.

As the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego announced that it asked the 98 parishes it oversees to curtail certain aspects of Mass, and one local conference announced it would not convene for a planned session due to coronavirus contagion concerns, many began thinking about the weekend entertainment plans they have already made.

For the record:

12:31 p.m. March 5, 2020A previous version of this story indicated that organizer FNGRS CRSSD is based in Los Angeles. We apologize.

12:31 p.m. March 5, 2020

With talk already in the wind concerning the possible cancellation of Austin’s massive South by Southwest festival, which is scheduled to run March 13-22, social media buzzed with speculation about other mayhem novel coronavirus might visit upon the music scene.

As Wednesday dawned a bit bleary-eyed from the previous evening’s primary election returns, some in Southern California wondered specifically about San Diego’s CRSSD Festival, a two-day electronic music extravaganza set to bring 15,000 people to Waterfront Park.

Twitter chatter about the event’s possible cancellation swirled ever more fiercely after news broke that the Ultra Music Festival, which was to take over Bayfront Park in Miami from March 20 to March 22, had been canceled over coronavirus concerns.

Run by local organizer FNGRS CRSSD, many literally have their fingers crossed that the CRSSD Fesitval will not suffer a similar fate.

Wednesday evening, event organizers said the following in an emailed statement: “We’re monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely, and adhering to all guidelines given by the CDC, state and local authorities. We are currently loading in CRSSD as planned; if anything changes regarding the authorities’ assessment of the situation, we will update our attendees immediately. Health and safety are always our top priority.”

So, this party’s still on, at least for the moment. And that’s the case for several other shows on the calendar this weekend, including Blake Shelton and Tame Impala shows on Friday and Monday at Pechanga Arena San Diego the International Mariachi Festival Sunday in Chula Vista.

So far, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s public health officer, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the greater San Diego area, and until there are, she said, using her public health powers to shut down community events is unnecessary.

“Closing large gatherings, that is not something that is prudent at this time,” Wooten said. “It certainly is something that we might have to do in the future if COVID-19 was in the community, but it’s not a strategy that’s warranted at this time.”

That’s not to say, she added, that those attending large events, or even small ones, should ignore what’s going on with the virus. Regular hand washing is definitely necessary in such settings, Wooten said, and anyone with a cough or other symptoms should just stay home.

The county health department, which had been updating the public on the number of people under home quarantine and testing due to travel or contact related to COVID, started daily information releases on Tuesday. The Wednesday update indicated that there are now only 85 people being monitored by the health department under home quarantine, 56 fewer than the number who were being monitored as of Friday afternoon.

To date, a total of 424 local residents have undergone home quarantine since early February. Of those, 30 have had one or more symptoms possibly caused by a COVID infection, but 25 of those have already tested negative. Five are currently awaiting test results, and 336 have completed two-week home quarantines.

COVID concerns were not confined to concerts Wednesday.

Midway through the day, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego announced that it is asking parishes to temporarily pull back on certain aspects of Mass as concerns mount over the global spread of novel coronavirus.

In a short notice released Wednesday, San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy asks parishes, and the 49 elementary and secondary schools they operate, to suspend the practice of drinking from a shared cup when taking communion. Clergy will also temporarily stop placing wafers, which Catholics call the Eucharist, on the tongues of parishioners during the holy ritual that is the bedrock of Sunday mass for an estimated 1.3 million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.

The Rev. Efrain Bautista, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Bonita, noted that communion is a little different for Catholics who believe that the wafer and wine they receive are transformed from mundane food to spiritual nourishment.

“I like to say that the matter remains the same, but the essence changes to the body and blood of Christ,” Bautista said.

Many prefer to receive the body of Christ on their tongues, he added, because they to not wish for even one tiny fragment of that essence to be lost en route. Suspension of the wine, and receiving the body in their hands, then, is a diminishment, but one that the reverend noted is far short of being lost. The holy spirit is, he said, doubly present in both the body and the blood, so receiving one or the other is considered spiritually equivalent to receiving both.

“We are not receiving less of Jesus,” Bautista said.

Sharing the sign of peace, another Mass fixture, where parishioners are encouraged to shake the hands or hug those in neighboring pews, is not going away, but fist bumps and waves might be more common for the time being.

“People are simply asked to be prudent; touching is not required,” McElroy said in the diocese’s statement.

There were also signs Friday that large gatherings involving many arriving from other places were starting to make organizers nervous. On Wednesday, Amnesty International announced that it has canceled its annual meeting which was to be held at the Hilton La Jolla-Torrey Pines Friday through Sunday.

“Unfortunately, the growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus or COVID-19 have led us to make the very difficult decision to cancel the convening in San Diego,” the organization said.