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Halachos Regarding Pesach/Shabbos and COVID-19 | Rabbi Moshe Rotberg

Please be advised that many of these halachos are strictly relevant to the current climate due to COVID-19.

Iyh we will soon get out of this situation and some of these halachos will not be as relevant. As this situation evolves so does some of the relevant halachos. While many of these halachos were already published there are more halachos which were included or updated based on the new realities.

Washing Hands with Soap and Purell

In this environment and time, the most important thing we can possibly do besides isolating is constant hand washing. One is allowed to wash their hands with liquid soap and/or Purell on Shabbos.

As per Pesach, Purell, and many other sanitizers do contain chometz. However, they may be use regardless in these times. However, care should be taken not to touch which will be eaten, prior to it drying on one’s hand.

Taking your Temperature

One may take their temperature on Shabbos. If one has only an electric thermometer and he is concerned about having fever and whether it is too high, he may turn it on with a shinui.

Pulse Oximeter

Someone who is concerned about his oxygen saturation can use a pulse oximeter on Shabbos as well. If he has a low reading, he should call Hatzolah.

Heating Pad

A patient may also use a heated blanket or heating pad. It may be advisable to tape down or secure any controls for them so that they don’t inadvertently get changed.

Oxygen

Oxygen administration does not involve any melachah and may be used without restriction for anyone in respiratory distress. Connecting an ambu-bag, operating a demand valve or a suction device to clear an airway are all permissible on Shabbos, since these devices are intended for life-threatening emergencies.

Moving an Oxygen Concentrator Plugging it in and Out

Sadly, many cholim are right now dependent on oxygen concentrators to breathe. These devices pull air from the surroundings and turn it into oxygen. These need to be plugged in to be charged. As a result of that, patients that need to be connected are stuck in bed all Shabbos. With a 3 day YT coming the following should be done. One should set a timer for when they will want to go downstairs or upstairs and disconnect it once the timer shuts it. They are allowed to move this device obviously (some are heavy and thus two people may do so) and connect it to a timer downstairs where it is off as well set to go on. If for some reason this the timer options fail one should get a goy to do so. However, if there is no goy available one can do so with a shinui as well, especially on Yom Tov.

Fans

Many people with fever can be hot and/or stuffy or very cold and shivers. If one has a fan setup which is on it can be moved when it is necessary for either the patient, the family members or the space it is occupying

Taking Medication on Shabbos and Yom Tov

Although one generally does not take medications on Shabbos and Yom Tov, in the following cases one is allowed to do so. Any medication which is taken to treat or prevent a life- threatening ailment is allowed to be taken obviously. As such, one who is bedridden as a result of an illness (or their function is seriously compromised) may take medication on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Drinks which are taken for hydration or nutrition may also be taken.

One who is bedridden (or worse) and needs medication on Shabbos, can get a non-Jewish person to go for them to purchase it and bring it back for them. One would be able to call a goy with a shinui as well if they were truly sick and in urgent need of relief to get them medication etc. If there is no available goy (or UBER, Car Service) or time may be of the essence and the patient is a choleh sheyaish bo sakano a Jew can drive as well to get what is needed. This is especially true on Yom Tov.

Taking a Bath

Someone who has a high fever can bathe if they need to lower the fever.

Wet Towels

Those trying to lower their high fever by placing it on their head or legs etc. should be mindful they are making it and gentle when doing so to make sure, that they are not squeezing the water.

Calling Hatzolah

With COVID-19 affecting so many people r”l and many of them are in quite serious situations many people are naturally calling Hatzolah. One should never hesitate to call Hatzolah when they are feeling ill and think that they may need to go the hospital. If during the week one would call their doctor as they don’t feel they need to be hospitalized, and one is merely looking to find out how to proceed and if any intervention is required, they should do so on Shabbos and Yom Tov as well. On Shabbos we generally don’t tell individuals to call their doctors to try to avoid the hospital in these situations one may because the hospital may not always be the right choice. However, many times the doctor’s office will not return your call in a timely manner due to the situation. Thus, if time be of the essence call Hatzolah. Obviously, any time one is doubt they should call Hatzolah and one does not need to do so with a shinui.

Taking a Phone to the Hospital

On Shabbos if one is being taken by Hatzolah to the hospital or if they are going by themselves, they must take a cellphone along. They should be sure to have the number of Bikur Cholim or others programmed in the phone. The number to call is 866-905-3020. If it is not programmed, they should do so even on Shabbos by themselves if there is no goy there to do it for him. Since hospitals are not allowing people to accompany patients to the hospital, and they will therefore be there themselves without an advocate it is imperative that they have access to a phone and numbers to people to help with advocacy and advice if needed. This is especially true in the current hospital setting where there is a lot going on and the system is very stretched. If you feel your being neglected cv or that you need to make a major medical decision, please call the advocates even on Shabbos!!

Transfers to a Different Hospital

In this climate transferring to a different hospital (even in the same system) is virtually impossible. Make sure to call Bikur Cholim prior to going to the hospital even on Shabbos to make sure that they can advise you which hospital to go to. This is even for non-COVID19 patients. If you are driving yourself or taking a car service/UBER be sure to verify which hospital is the most preferred.

Going along with Patients to the Hospital

Those who would typically accompany the patient to the hospital may not be able to go in this environment due to strict regulations. If the Hatzolah members inform you that you will not be allowed into the hospital due not insist on going along anyways. You will get stuck at the hospital and they will “not let just you stay”; additionally, you will not be able to come back with the Hatzolah members on Shabbos(Yom Tov may be more lenient in this manner)In cases where it is of great importance for one to go along for the transport to the hospital on Shabbos for the psychological needs of the patient (they are panicking) one may return home with a taxi or UBER.

Calling Hospitals to Check on Patients

The hospitals are literally chaotic at this point. There are some frightening reports of serious neglect potentially causing death to people. (Certainly, this is not happening purposefully, the medical facilities truly are overwhelmed!) It is urgent that you call on Shabbos on Yom Tov to check up on patients and loved ones as well. This prevents people from “falling through the cracks”.

Calling Patients

Many patients in the hospital who are not sedated are terrified and are panicking. This complicates their health and complicates matters further. If one has reason to believe that this is the case this would be a classic case of yisuvai daas which has real medical implications. Check with a Rov for your specific case as it may be allowed or required to call.

Returning from the Hospital

Coming back form the hospital if one is released on Shabbos, is generally a very complex issue of who and when would be able to come on Shabbos, if ever. However, in this situation unless one has a safe place to be which is secure and sterile one may get a non-Jew to bring them home. (The nurses can call a taxi or an UBER on your behalf in most cases.) If it is out of the t’chum one should not bring back their belongings outside of what is important to have with them. (Most hospitals will not allow people to stay there regardless so this will usually be required regardless.)

Answering your Phone

Anyone who has family members in the hospital or elderly or vulnerable family who are alone should certainly answer their phone if they see that they are calling them on Shabbos. Due to the anxiety of many to go to the hospital in these times, some are reluctant to make that call which can save their life. Therefore, if you see the call answer it!

The Seder

Anyone who was advised by the doctor not to drink wine or eat matzoi etc. as it can be dangerous should listen to the doctor. If they defy the doctor’s order’s they are not allowed to make a b’racha as they are not fulfilling the mitzvah.

In addition, for those who are not well, you can eat smaller shiurim and you should not put yourself at risk of even being in pain. Chumros such as eating two k’zaysim as well as eating larger kzaysim and revios should not be done at the risk of your health.

Hesaiba

For those who hesaiba is uncomfortable for them, should not do so as this is not hesaiba; this is especially true nowadays.

Davening

Since we will sadly not be davening with a minyan there are a few important things to remember.

  • One should always be sure to be dressed appropriately as if he was going to Shul.
  • One should have a set place to daven in his home-preferably by a wall.
  • Be sure not to daven in front of anything that is prohibited (pictures, mirrors).
  • One should not recite magen avos on Friday night.
  • Shabbos and Yom Tov morning, one should lain the Parsha from a Chumash.
  • One should try to make a respectable and geshmaker tzuras haTeffilah even though they are davening b’yechidus, especially Hallel!
  • One may not eat before Kiddush even if you aren’t going to Shul.
  • There are many who maintain that Pesach night after Maariv we do not recite Hallel with a b’racha even according to those that normally do, when davening b’yechidus.
  • One should remember according to their nusach when to no longer recite mashiv haruach.
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