The White House removed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control about the possibility of spreading the novel coronavirus while singing in choirs, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
The Trump administration and the CDC have been at odds for weeks over guidelines for houses of worship. Last week, the CDC released recommendations that suggest people use caution while singing or chanting during worship because it can increase the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC recommended that churches and other religious places “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition.”
The reason, it says, is because “the act of singing may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”
A few days after the guidelines were published, all references to singing or sharing passed around cups were removed. Guidelines around shared rugs or hymnals were left in place, however.
The new guidelines also added that the recommendations were “not intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment.”
The White House says that the CDC’s recommendations were altered because the original guidelines hadn’t been approved the administration. The altered document was approved after the reference to choirs was removed.
Reportedly, according to anonymous sources, the guidelines around choirs and singing has been a sticky point in the administration. Some members of the White House apparently felt that the restrictions were too numerous. Sources say that the White House is concerned about alienating evangelical leaders and followers and limiting singing, or the passing of collection plates or hymnals could cause them to lose support.
While large gatherings, in general, have been advised against for weeks to help stop the spread of the deadly virus, group singing gatherings have been particularly concerning. These types of gatherings are called “superspreader” events, and one may have contributed to the death of two choral members in Washington state who died after participating in a practice session where a person who was infected with COVID-19 was present, resulting in 52 new infections.
The incident was mentioned in the CDC’s report as part of the justification for advising against such gatherings.
“Members had an intense and prolonged exposure, singing while sitting 6-10 inches from one another, possibly emitting aerosols,” the report read.
In another incident, dozens of churchgoers were infected by COVID-19 and three died after a pastor was infected with the virus but continued to hold events.
Trump has been vocal about allowing churches to practice as usual, even as the outbreak continues to spread.