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New Orleans Archbishop Takes to Sky for Coronavirus Blessing

FILE - Archbishop Gregory Aymond rides in a World War II era Stearman PT-17 biplane over the city of New Orleans, April 10, 2020.

The archbishop of New Orleans sprinkled holy water from a World War II-era biplane high above the city in an unusual Good Friday blessing for those affected by the coronavirus.

The open-air plane carried Archbishop Gregory Aymond, 70, from the Lakefront Airport to Kenner, to Gretna, to the French Quarter over 25 minutes, The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate reported.

Aymond prayed for protection and healing and sprinkled holy water that came from the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized.

“When I first did it, the water came back on me,” Aymond said, “but then I got situated.”

Aymond recently recovered from the virus himself and said he asked God to offer grace in particular to health care workers, first responders and city leaders.

The archdiocese has canceled all Masses indefinitely because of social distancing requirements.

Rabbi was next

Rabbi Lexi Erdheim, 29, of the Congregation Gates of Prayer Synagogue in Metairie, went up in the same plane after Aymond to offer a blessing during Passover.

“It was really powerful, seeing everything at once,” she said, “especially after being inside the same four walls for so long.”

More than 20,000 people in Louisiana have confirmed infections of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, about 10% of whom are hospitalized, according to health department data. The number of virus deaths climbed to at least 806, with 51 new deaths added to the toll Saturday.

All 64 parishes in the state have at least one confirmed positive case of the coronavirus each, with Tensas Parish getting its first confirmed case overnight.

Louisiana has seen encouraging signs this week in its fight against the virus outbreak. The rate of new hospitalizations has slowed, and the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators has decreased.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild symptoms like fever and a cough that resolve in two to three weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, more severe symptoms can occur, including pneumonia, that can lead to death.