During the Belen Jesuit Preparatory School’s graduation mass June 15, school president Fr. Guillermo M. García-Tuñón asked the congregation to remove their masks to sing a song in prayer.
“I invite you all to please stand together with me,” he said. “I know that we’re supposed to be wearing our masks but I’m going to ask you to take it off for this song. You can put it on afterwards.”
That two-hour mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Doral was streamed live and uploaded to YouTube. A day later, the same video was uploaded with García-Tuñón’s request edited out, replaced with a conspicuous jump cut.
School spokeswoman Teresa Martinez confirmed that García-Tuñón did make that request, and the video was edited.
“After the mass we kind of realized that’s not the right message to put out,” she said. “We brought down the video, made that edit, put it back up.”
She added: “We understand the importance of everyone wearing a face mask.”
The next day, the Jesuit, all-boys grades 6-12 school held a commencement at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds’ E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion. A few days later on June 20, the school sent out a notification that a sibling of a graduate who attended the graduation tested positive for coronavirus. The same day that email was sent out, the school learned that the graduate also tested positive.
“Because the proper social distance was always maintained and a face mask was worn throughout the whole ceremony, we believe the risk to the community was low,” the email read.
Martinez said the sibling contracted coronavirus on the evening of June 15, according to the contact tracing the family did. The sibling did not attend the mass that night, but the graduate did.
Graduates posed on the graduation stage with García-Tuñón and Principal Jose Roca to receive their diplomas without masks. Martinez said there was hand sanitizer on both sides of the stage. Students walked up to the one side of the stage, removed their face mask, walked across the stage to pose for photo with their diploma without a handshake, and exited the other side of the stage and put their mask back on.
Photos obtained by the Miami Herald show large groups without masks. Martinez said the school spaced out graduates six feet apart, staggered entrances for the crowd, provided graduates with masks, required them to be worn and limited guests to three people per graduate. She said the school asked families to take photos of their sons at home.