November Covid Update for Churches: Singing!

November Covid Update for Churches: Singing!

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As congregations across the Southern New England Conference return to varying levels of in-person worship, laments are rising, becoming louder: We want to sing!

Some have thrown open the doors, gathering, and singing together, while others are remaining online only. The difference lies in the details. Church leadership chooses what is best for each individual congregation, often weighing factors such as: the community transmission rate, hospitalization numbers, death rate, vaccination status, congregation or community vulnerability and risk tolerance.  

While Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all have vaccination rates above 80%, transmission rates remain substantial to high and the CDC recommends all people wear masks when taking part in indoor gatherings.  

Caring for others is at the foundation of our theology. We desire to keep ourselves and each other safe from infection and possibly death; we also want to maintain morale, membership, and faithful spiritual practices. If your congregation chooses to resume singing indoors, there is no way to guarantee zero risk but there are strategies to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.  

Care-filled Worship and Sacramental Life in a Lingering Pandemic, a resource developed by an ecumenical group of theologians, acknowledges the important role of congregational singing in Christian worship to “praise the Lord together.” They also recognize that coronavirus spreads through breathing, through aerosols spread when speaking, and through singing. Therefore, several mitigation strategies are recommended.  

COVID guidelines developed and disseminated by State Departments of Education are also good sources of reliable information regarding to staying safe in settings where music to performed. The Connecticut School Mitigation Strategies for Arts Instruction and Performance, Yale School of Music Requirements, the Journal of the American Medical Association, COVID-19 Precautions Help Make Music That’s Beautiful and Safe published October 14, 2021 agree on this basic guidance:
 
  1. GET VACCINATED if eligible. That means get all doses of the vaccine recommended at this time, including a booster shot. Get the COVID-19 vaccination AND get your flu shot! “Anthony Fauci, MD, told Michael Barbaro on the Nov. 12 episode of "The Daily" podcast, produced by The New York Times, that boosting is an absolutely essential component of the nation's COVID-19 response. 'Not a bonus, not a luxury, but an absolute essential part of the program,' he said.”  
  2. Wear a well-fitting multiple layer mask. A brief YouTube video by the American Chemical Society demonstrates the reduction in aerosol release when singing with a mask.  Singers, theater performers, and musicians must wear well-fitting surgical masks while singing or speaking. Read more here.  
  3. Consider using bell covers made of a 3-ply surgical mask for small instruments or a MERV 13 filter inside a Spandex cover for larger instruments. Read more here.  
  4. Maintain physical distance of at least 3-6 feet between performers and at least 12 feet from the audience.
  5. Limit performances to 30 minutes indoors and one hour outdoors, or 50 minutes indoors if three air exchanges or more per hour occur. Rhode Island Department of Health provides tips to improve ventilation indoors by opening windows, using high-efficiency particulate air cleaners, or increasing the ventilation system’s air exchange rate. The more air exchanges per hour, the lower the risk of disease spreading through the air.
  6. Limit the number of choir members as space allows to maintain physical distancing. 
  7. Perform outdoors when possible.  
CDC offers guidance for safe holiday gatherings as well.  
  • Get vaccinated. 
  • Wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands and keep hands away from the face, eyes, nose and mouth. 
  • Stay home if you have any symptoms of COIVD-19, even if you think it is “just a cold.”  
  • Stay home, and do not host a gathering if you or your family have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.  
  • Outdoor activities are safer 
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated places. 
  • Get vaccinated.  
Holiday traditions for worship, song and family gathering pose an increased risk for transmission of COVID-19 in unvaccinated and vaccinated people. If we follow all the precautions, we can to mitigate the spread, we can reduce the community transmission, and come closer to being able to live with the Corona virus, just as we live with influenza.  

Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season!
Your Minister of Health and Wellness, 
Deborah Ringen 


 

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Author

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Deborah Ringen

Deborah Ringen MSN, RN-BC is a Faith Community Nurse and the Minister of Health and Wellness for the Southern New England Conference, UCC.

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