Iyh we will soon get out of this situation and some of these halachos will not be as relevant.
With the recent pandemic which we are facing many questions have arose. While it is difficult to write halacha l’maaseh in a column we will try to address as many issues as possible.
For the first time in modern history most Yidden around the world are stuck home without Yeshivos, Schools and Shuls operating. This is obviously in response to the unprecedented virus which is ferociously attacking so many people, communities, and countries. The level of contagiousness is so severe that steps were taken by the federal state and local governments which the likes of it was almost never seen before. As such, l’havdil the world of the halacha has been faced with many situations and rulings that have not be addressed before.
Here we will try to include some halachos which may be relevant to you.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
Although one generally does not take medications on Shabbos, 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. Drinks which are taken for hydration or nutrition may also be taken.
Getting Medication on Shabbos
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. Onewould 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.
Taking a Bath
Someone who has a high fever can bathe if they need to lower the fever.
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 Shabbosas 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.
Informing Anxious Family Members
Often the patient in this environment is going to the hospital themselves. If the party left home is extremely anxious, one may hint to a non-Jew to call the house and leave a message informing the family of the patient’s condition. However, it is better to tell this to the non-Jew before Shabbos, when it seems likely before Shabbos that this arrangement will be necessary.
Returning from the Hospital
Coming back from 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!
Since we will sadly not be davening with a minyan there are a few important things to remember.