White House Deletes Warning About Risk of Church Singing Despite Evidence It's COVID 'Superspreader'

The White House has removed a warning in the Centers for Disease Control guidance about the risk of spreading coronavirus through singing in church groups, The Washington Post reported, despite a recent CDC report that showed how choir groups can be COVID-19 “superspreaders.”

The CDC had shared an “interim guidance for communities of faith” on their website on Friday to help worship centers safely reopen amid the ongoing pandemic. They advised “suspending or at least decreasing use of a choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming.”

The concern is that “the act of singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC said, as the virus primarily spreads through respiratory droplets from the mouth or nose that expel when breathing, sneezing, coughing or talking, and singing would do the same.

But a day later, the warnings about choir groups was removed from the page entirely, along with suggestions about wearing masks, holding clergy visits online instead of in person and eliminating the use of any shared items, such as hymnals and wine cups used for communion.

According to the Post, two White House officials said that the initial guidance had not been approved by the Trump administration and that the updated version was a correction, based on concerns in the White House that they were placing too many limitations on choir groups.

The White House officials, who spoke to the Post anonymously, said that the Trump administration was concerned that the restrictions on choir groups and the other since-removed guidelines would alienate their evangelical base.

Singing groups, however, have been shown to be “superspreaders” for COVID-19. The CDC published a report on May 12 about a choir group in Washington state where 53 of the 61 members were infected with COVID-19 after holding a two-and-a-half-hour practice on March 10. Three of those infected members were hospitalized with the virus, and two died.

“Choir practice attendees had multiple opportunities for droplet transmission from close contact or fomite transmission, and the act of singing itself might have contributed to SARS-CoV-2 transmission,” the CDC said in their report. “Members had an intense and prolonged exposure, singing while sitting 6–10 inches from one another, possibly emitting aerosols.”

President Donald Trump has been pushing for places of worship to reopen across the country, though many state governors have held back over fears of renewed COVID-19 outbreaks. Trump said May 22 that he would “override the governors” if they did not allow them to reopen, however he does not legally have that ability.

In Georgia and Texas, two churches reopened and then closed again after faith leaders and congregants contracted COVID-19.

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