(Courtesy of Torahweb.org) The coronavirus causes COVID-19, a very dangerous and contagious infection, far more dangerous and contagious than the flu (influenza). Not only individuals with pre-existing conditions are vulnerable.
Anyone over age 50, although robust and healthy, is vulnerable to potentially life-threatening complications. Additionally, as the coronavirus continues to (over) tax our healthcare system, we face the catastrophic prospect of not being able to provide life-saving treatment. This shortage would affect all patients with all serious conditions, not only those infected with the virus. The following sentence is difficult to fathom because no one alive today has ever experienced anything of this sort. Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear: We are currently confronted by communal sakanat nefashot (danger to life) of the highest order.
Communal gatherings have contributed to the explosive, exponential spread of the coronavirus. Accordingly, at the present time, any communal activity or gathering in any venue is highly dangerous and literally, potentially life-threatening.
Dr. Daniel Berman and Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt
Psak Halacha from HaRav Hershel Schachter shlit”a
The mitzvah to safeguard and preserve life overrides all mitzvos haTorah. It is not a midat chasidut to ignore sakanat nefashot.
On the contrary, it is expressly and strictly forbidden. In the words of the Ba’alei ha-Tosfot, “damav b’osho,” such an individual is culpable for any loss of life that ensues.
In light of expert medical opinion regarding the current catastrophic danger, the following measures are halachically required and must be adhered to by all.
• Everyone should daven privately. No minyanim should be formed in any venue.
• Weddings and brittim should be celebrated with a quorum of 10, no more (minyan m’tzumtzom).
• Funerals must also be curtailed to a bare quorum of 10.
• Bar and bat mitzvah celebrations should be postponed.
• Yeshivot should be closed immediately. In the merit of the sacred mitzvah of attempting to preserve and protect life and our teshuvah (repentance), both communal and individual, may HaKadosh Baruch Hu send the yeshuah (salvation).