Washington D.C., May 29, 2020 / 11:56 am
The Trump administration has removed guidance on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website which discouraged, among other things, singing, choirs and “shared cups” at religious services.
Despite the CDC’s backtrack, Catholic medical professionals and other experts with whom CNA has spoken continue to recommend that singing and the Communion cup ought to be discouraged at Mass for the time being.
Religious communities should “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 guidelines, posted May 22, originally read.
“The act of singing may contribute to transmission of COVID-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”
CNA learned from a person familiar with the deliberations that the White House did not approve the original CDC guidance before it was published.
That guidance was reportedly met with concern by many people of faith for certain provisions that seemed to intrude on the autonomy of religious groups, such as one recommendation that Jews should be allowed to use electronic devices on the Sabbath to stream services online.
A new CDC guidance page went live May 23. The new guidance, CNA was told, was to have the input of lawyers with experience in religious freedom cases. It was to be more sensitive to the autonomy of churches and religions and apply a “lighter touch” to them, functioning as a set of recommendations rather than instructions, and implying that actions taken by state and local governments that go beyond the federal recommendations are inappropriate.
The new guidance page contains no specific guidance related to singing or choirs. A recommendation to suspend the use of “shared cups” and passed or shared objects such as collection plates also was removed in favor of a recommendation to “clean and disinfect” such objects between uses.