That’s a good question, and the Archbishop of San Francisco is working with the Mayor of San Francisco on it. In the end, not one of us deserves the inestimable gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, so we must wait humbly until the gift is given to us.
But it does seem odd that pandemic restrictions seem to be increasing precisely as the risk of infection and death seem to be decreasing. Why have neighborhood business closures been extended when the hospitalization curve has been flat for five weeks? Why can we still not have public Masses when the Covid units in our hospitals are increasingly empty? Why are we keeping the global economy shut down when the initial mortality predictions, on which those drastic measures were based, have been shown to be grossly exaggerated? Certainly we must enact safety measures, but such measures must be proportionate to the risks they entail to other areas of human life and health. Furthermore, we must consider not only our own health but the health and safety of the entire community. Social and economic shutdowns hurt the poor and the weak more than the upper classes. Those who control mass media can easily forget the marginalized, who are largely invisible to them. Mass media largely drives public policy in a highly politicized society like ours, and public policy seems to be denying the devastation blue collar America will suffer over the next few years. For the middle and upper classes the shutdown is at worst an inconvenience and at best an extended vacation. For the poor, it is a loss of livelihood.
I recently read a prophetic book by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) written in 1989, To Look on Christ. “The entire life of a society,” he wrote, “… can rest on a dictatorship of untruth: of how things are presented and reported instead of reality itself…. [in] a society shaped by the mass media, the image of man and his world has obtained an oppressive new reality. What is shown and ‘appears’ (on television, for example), is stronger than reality.”
G.K. Chesterton is said to have written that "when men stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing. They believe in anything." The media has provided us, who have lost much of our faith in God, with something in which to believe. It has provided us with fear, always a strong motivation for faith. It has identified an enemy (a pandemic) and pointed to a savior (the government).
I think we implicitly trust mainstream media because the media promises us a comfortable measure of personal autonomy. Trusting in a personal God requires a personal surrender to His will, but this is intolerable to a society that has made “free choice” its highest good. We prefer to submit a little of our will to powers that do not demand a complete surrender. The “experts” tell us that we will be safe as long as we give up just a few personal liberties. We can still keep our free choice to eat and drink what we want. We are free to watch Netflix all day (heck, porn sites are even offering two months of unlimited free content). Abortion clinics won’t close, and pet food stores will remain open. But we must keep isolated, despite what scientific data increasingly indicates. If we don’t learn something from the way the media has so easily frightened us and controlled us, we have already lost one essential freedom: the capacity to think for ourselves.
When will public Masses resume? They will resume when we think that the supreme good of the Holy Mass is worth more than a proportionate risk to our bodily health.