Singing is a passionate expression of the soul and an integral part of worship for many faiths. As ministry leaders make plans for in-person services, the issue of singing has been an unexpected outcrop of the COVID-19 virus. Your ministry may be weighing whether worship singing is safe, when to allow it, and how.
The issue of singing came up when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted a report in May1 involving choir members in Skagit County, Washington, exposed to the virus during a practice. In the report, a member who attended both practices tested positive for the virus. Within a few days, 53 people also tested positive out of a 122-member choir and became sick. Two people died.
The CDC concluded in the Skagit County case that transmission of the COVID-19 virus was likely facilitated by close proximity during practice and the act of singing. Before you make your decision, it may be helpful to review how the virus is spread and understand how that relates to the biological mechanism of singing.
The COVID-19 virus is transmitted through airborne droplets and aerosolized breath caused by coughing and sneezing, but also with loud talking, laughing, and singing.2,3 These particles can linger in the air and on surfaces. Researchers continue to study the measure of how long the particles can survive once expelled, and the distance they can travel.
Whether you’re a professionally trained vocalist or worship service attendee, singing produces droplets and aerosolized particles through the biological mechanism of fuller air intake and deeper exhalations. Aerosol emission during speech also has been tied to loudness of vocalization.4
To help you decide when or whether to bring back worship singing—by choir, by attendees, or both—it may help to think in terms of the risk level of singing during a service or holding choir practice safely. Also, the ages of your choir members and your attendees are important factors to consider.
As you read through the risk considerations, visualize the droplets and aerosolized particles expelled through singing as glitter floating through the air. This may help you see what potential particle transmission might look like in the context of your choir, your attendees, and your worship space.
In-person Choir Practices
Maintaining a healthy environment includes a second look at your ventilation systems. Fans and poor ventilation may play a role in spreading COVID-19 virus particles,5 so proper ventilation may help diminish the spread.6 Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to children using the facility.
A diminished amount of worship singing may leave your choir and attendees feeling a sense of loss. It’s important to acknowledge their concerns and communicate what you considered when crafting a plan for worship singing going forward. When considering what your ministry’s approach to singing will be, you are encouraged to keep informed regarding your state and local government and health agencies’ restrictions, guidance, and recommendations.
Posted June 12, 2020
1 “High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice — Skagit County, Washington, March 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 May 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm.
2 “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated 2 June, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#How-COVID-19-Spreads.
3 Xie, Xiaojian & Li, Yuguo & Sun, Hequan & Liu, Li. “Exhaled droplets due to talking and coughing.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 7 October 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2843952. Accessed 12 June 2020.
4 “High SARS-CoV-2 Attack Rate Following Exposure at a Choir Practice—Skagit County, Washington, March 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 May 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm.
5 Bin Xu, Guangzhou Yuexiu District Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province 510100, China; ; Zhicong Yang, Guangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province 510440, China. “COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emerging Infectious Diseases.® https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0764_article#suggestedcitation. Accessed 12 June 2020.
6 “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Considerations for Schools.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated 19 May, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools.html.
The information provided on this page is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.
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