To Sing or Not to Sing?

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.

Singing and the Virus

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

Performances and Practices

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.



  • One singer on stage.
  • Stage is a good distance from the attendees.
  • Attendees are in listen-mode only and wear masks.
  • Music is projected or provided on single-use sheets and not shared. 
  • Social distancing is required.


  • A small number of singers on stage who can social distance and do not face each other.
  • Stage is a distance from the attendees.
  • Attendees are permitted to sing but are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
  • Music is printed out and possibly reused in one or two other services.
  • Social distancing rules for attendees are encouraged.


  • A full choir on stage with no social distancing.
  • Stage is in close proximity to the attendees.
  • Attendees are permitted to sing. Masks are not required.
  • Hymnals and music books are shared between services.
  • No requirements or suggestions to social distance for attendees.

In-person Choir Practices


  • Practice is held outdoors on a non-windy day.
  • Choir members are not face-to-face.
  • Temperature and symptom checks are required.
  • Social distancing is required.
  • Music is projected or provided on single-use sheets and not shared.
  • No shared food or beverage.
  • Attendance is limited to choir members only.


  • Practice is held indoors in a well-ventilated room.
  • Small groups practice together instead of the full choir.
  • Choir members are not face-to-face.
  • Members are asked to self-report any symptoms of the virus.
  • Social distancing is strongly encouraged.
  • Music is printed out as needed and may be reused by others during practice.
  • Food and beverage are available but served by one person wearing a mask and gloves.
  • Visitors and non-choir attendees are required to wear masks.


  • Practice is held indoors.
  • Full choir practices together.
  • Members are not asked to self-report symptoms of the virus.
  • No social distancing requirement.
  • Hymnals and music books are shared.
  • Food and beverage are available.
  • Practice is open to the public.

One More Consideration

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.

2 “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated 2 June, 2020.

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. 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.

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.® Accessed 12 June 2020.

6 “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Considerations for Schools.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated 19 May, 2020.

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.