Trump Admin Edits CDC Guidance That Suggested Limiting Choirs At Church Services

Rehearsal of women's chorus concert
May 29, 2020 5:12 p.m.
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The Trump administration edited the CDC’s public “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith” to remove advice about choirs and the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus.

The Washington Post reported the change on Friday.

Initially, CDC guidance on COVID-19 — as seen on archived versions of the CDC website — advised on the risks of church choirs as well as communal chanting. A passage on the page read:

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.

But as the website currently shows, the passage has been deleted. So have other passages, including recommendations that virtual events — youth groups, religious education classes, home visits by clergy — be held in lieu of in-person activities.

Two unnamed White House officials told the Post that the first version of the CDC guidance was, in the paper’s words, “not approved by the White House.” After West Wing officials saw it, the officials told the Post, they asked the CDC to post a different document.

The changes to choir guidance are notable given the CDC’s own epidemiological focus on choirs and churches.

A report published by the CDC this month focused on the case of a 2.5-hour choir practice attended by one person with COVID-19 symptoms.

After the rehearsal, per the report, “32 confirmed and 20 probable secondary COVID-19 cases occurred (attack rate = 53.3% to 86.7%); three patients were hospitalized, and two died. Transmission was likely facilitated by close proximity (within 6 feet) during practice and augmented by the act of singing.”

The choir practice, in Skagit County, Washington, was reported on in March by The Los Angeles Times.

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