New CDC Guidelines: Reactions from Medical Professionals with Performing Arts Advisory Experience

The CDC’s updated guidance for fully vaccinated people (released May 13) includes the news that singing in an indoor chorus without masks is now considered a “safest” activity for those vaccinated.

In light of this latest update, choruses are carefully considering how best to apply these guidelines to the specific circumstances of their own organizations and singers, especially since vaccinated Americans will still have to abide by existing state, local or tribal laws and regulations.

As part of our 2021 Summer Conference, Chorus America is presenting a session called “What's Next: Preparing for a Healthy, Safe Reopening” that brings together a panel of doctors with experience advising performing arts organizations. We asked the panelists to share their initial reactions to the new CDC guidelines:

“The recent CDC guidance about masking is based on the available scientific evidence. As we think about implementing this recommendation, we should be aware of some of the caveats that have been shared by the CDC. The guidance relies heavily on vaccinated people to curtail transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in a community. It assumes all vaccinated people will have a robust protective immune response. Lastly, it declares an early victory over variants (which very well may be the case down the road).

With that said, at this time each family/person/organization needs to weigh the risks/benefits as they navigate through the pandemic. Let’s keep in mind, the super safest option today is a small group (private set up, family, friends) of individuals who are fully vaccinated, masked and outdoors. The least safe option will be large gatherings, all unvaccinated, indoors and no masks. As we make decisions, a good idea is to be aware of how a setting could be a super safest or a safe or not so safe setting.”

-Neha Nanda MD, FSHEA, Director of Center for Emerging Pathogens USC

“Essentially, the new guidelines loosen some restrictions but still emphasize a need for care and respect of our fellow singers. I agree with Dr Fauci that vaccinated persons can congregate without masks out of doors and without social distancing for as long as they want—singing included. Respect for the choir group as a whole should be emphasized and proof of vaccination is one way to protect and bond with your choral family.

Singing indoors is more complex due to various degrees of ventilation in different churches. If you truly have a choir bubble, you can be together and sing in a practice room unmasked, but I recommend gradually increasing practices from 30 – 60 min to assure that no one becomes ill during a couple of short practices. In church, the choir should be able to sing unmasked together. I would suggest that the congregation remain socially distanced and masked and that at least 3-4 of the front pews remain unoccupied.”

-Lucinda Halstead, MD, Associate Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, President of the Performing Arts Medicine Association

How does this news of the latest guidelines affect plans for your chorus? Chorus America is deeply interested in specific questions that choral leaders have on their considerations for in-person rehearsals and performances going forward. Please contact us by email at [email protected] with your questions or feedback.