SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento has directed pastors to provide virtual masses in purple tier counties as coronavirus cases continue to surge throughout the region.

Bishop Jaime Soto said in a letter to parishioners on Friday that beginning Sunday, Nov. 15, masses in purple tier counties – the counties with the highest level of coronavirus restrictions – will no longer allow more than 10 people to be present unless the services are held outside.

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Bishop Soto attributed the setback in the fight against the virus to other sectors that allow for social gatherings and crowds.

“Unfortunately, due to lack of diligence in other social sectors, the rates of COVID-19 infection are surging to dangerous levels. Even our own efforts will not be enough to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said.

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Soto called the decision “heartbreaking” and said the diocese believes safety protocols that have been in place amid the pandemic have contributed significantly to mitigating the spread throughout churches in the diocese.

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“The coming Advent season reminds us of the need to remain vigilant,” he said. “With greater reason we must remain vigilant and steadfast in caring for one another, especially for the sake of the most vulnerable among us.”