Even within the astonishing incompetence of the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19, I find this one hard to fathom.
Mainstream denominations, and even whole countries, have figured out that singing at church creates a significant, avoidable risk of spreading COVID-19. The reason is that singing generates large amounts of aerosol (under 5 micron) particles. And all it takes is one infected individual, who is also a high-volume emitter of aerosols, to infect a large number of individuals.
See Post #682 and earlier posts for background, and a little simple math.
If you work through the list of religions in the DC area with significant top-down control, you’ll find that the leadership has figured out this issue.
For example, in the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington DC, re-opening of churches included this piece of guidance: “5. The use of choirs should be omitted. The preferred musical accompaniment at Mass consists of one cantor and one organist or pianist. … ”
How about the Episcopal Church in DC.? “No live singing with exception of vocalist with mask and microphone.”
The Presbyterians? “Since congregational singing and choral music are particularly risky activities when it comes to the spread of Covid-19, these elements of worship should be omitted when churches first return to public worship, until such a time as it is deemed safe.”
That’s enough to get the drift.
And, in the past, the US government got that. On 5/22/2020, my wife sent me the text of the newly-published CDC re-opening guidance to churches. It said:
Consider suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition. The act of singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.
Good advice. And pretty mild stuff, really, when Germany has simply banned church singing outright, for the duration of the pandemic. And when church-based superspreader events have been identified in many countries, starting with the Mount Vernon, Washington choral event.
To be clear, as with meat packing plants, church-based superspreader events are a universal phenomenon. They aren’t some one-off, unique, random event. They occur repeatedly, suggesting some underlying fundamental risk. For example, it’s not that US meat packing plants have an issue. It’s that meat packing plants around the world have been subject to outbreaks. And it’s not that a US church choir or two has had a problem. It’s that churches around the world have been the sites of superspreader events. See Post #679 for a brief list of some such events.
Today I got a note from a colleague pointing to this NPR article. Apparently, somebody at the White House objected to that language, so it’s gone. The CDC now no longer even mentions singing in its advice to churches.
You truly have to wonder what they were thinking. Of all the material in that “interim guidance”, that one passage, referencing singing, had to go. The one thing for which we have spectacular evidence of the risks involved, documented in detail by the US CDC. NPR says that change to the guidance happened a few days ago, I think it happened just after 5/22/2020, when the CDC removed the word “aerosol” from that passage.
God save the Republic. The people in charge certainly aren’t going to.