With most states beginning to reopen after long lock-downs, some students have asked when we will be resuming in-person lessons again. We have been informed that the church where we teach has decided/voted to remain closed at least until September.
We have done our best to stay informed with what the latest research is saying in regards to singing in close proximity with one another and the dangers posed by COVID-19. It is important to remember – just because states are reopening does not mean that it is now safe to resume social activities.
Given the most recent information from scientists and epidemiologists, it will not be safe to return to in-person lessons until there is a vaccine and wide-spread testing for COVID-19.
We know that this is disappointing news, but we feel strongly that this is the best course of action for the health and safety of our students and their families. In addition, we are exploring virtual options for our Annual Student Recital in the event that the church does not re-open in September.
We’re providing a lot of information below, including links to supporting articles, that led to our decision to not return to in-person lessons. We recommend that you continue reading so that you can make informed decisions as more and more activities begin to resume in your area. If you only have time to read one article, we recommend this one from the NY Times. For more information, please continue reading.
COVID-19 is not the flu. If you get it, the potential outcomes are not just death or recovery. Depending upon how it affects an individual, the effects could last 2 weeks or up to 2 months. It does not just attack the respiratory system. It now seems likely that it is a blood disease that can cause complications in organ systems throughout the body, causing lasting damage and, potentially, lifelong consequences for those who recover. Those who are contagious may not exhibit symptoms, allowing the disease to spread undetected. It does not only affect the aging population or those with compromised immune systems. All are at risk.
That is as succinct an explanation I can give for why we should all take every possible precaution to avoid contracting COVID-19. We are taking this very seriously. We do not want this disease, nor do we want to risk passing it to our friends and family.
Contrary to what the behavior of many of our neighbors may indicate, the pandemic is not over and it is not yet safe to end our social distancing routines. It will not be safe to do so until a vaccine has been developed and administered to most of our population, or until we reach somewhere between 60% to 70% of the population recovered from infection. We must continue to take the recommended precautions like wearing masks in public, washing hands regularly, and continuing to avoid interacting closely with those outside of our own households. If you can’t account for a person’s whereabouts (including the whereabouts of all those people they have come into contact with) for the past two weeks, DO NOT subject yourselves to the risk of a close interaction.
What does that mean for those of us who are anxious to get back to singing together again?
The short answer is that it is not yet safe to come together again for these activities. It would be irresponsible for us to try to resume our in-person lessons. We will continue to meet online as we have been until innovators in our field find better alternatives or until the danger is past. As well-intentioned as our students are, it would be nearly impossible to avoid having an infected singer transmit the disease to us and/or one of the other students that follow them.
Singing has been proven to be a “Super-Spreader” activity. Respiratory droplets are produced at a greater volume when singing than when speaking at a conversational level. Due to the higher concentration of droplets in the air, the threat of another person receiving an infection-level dose of the virus from someone who is infected is increased.
A community choir in Washington met just before the lock-down in March and 1 member who attended the rehearsal was infected. Of the 61 members at that rehearsal, 52 were infected in the days following the rehearsal. 3 of those were hospitalized and 2 of those people died.
For more information about the dangers of transmission in varying examples of indoor spaces, please read this well-researched article from Erin Bromage, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. PLEASE read this to better understand why certain spaces are more dangerous than others. It will really help you to make more informed decisions regarding your personal safety.
The Metropolitan Opera in New York City has cancelled all performances for 2020, after initially being hopeful that they could resume in September at the beginning of their regular season.
Theaters on Broadway will remain dark until at least September 6th, according to guidance from the Governor of New York.
There is only one major production of The Phantom of the Opera that has continued through the pandemic in South Korea (with only a 15-day interruption when 2 members of the company tested positive), but the procedures mandated by the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are strictly followed with no dissent among cast, crew, or patrons. I highly recommend you read the whole article to get an idea of all of the safety procedures that must be followed at each performance, including temperature checks, review of a mandatory nationwide contact tracing app, and misting the patrons with disinfectant when entering the theater. While reading, I ask you to honestly consider whether you believe this could work in a country where a small percentage of the population seems to value personal freedom above social responsibility.
What can we do?
Be there for one another. We can continue to stay connected online through video conferencing apps and social media. Check in on your family and friends to make sure that they’re well. We all need social interaction to maintain good mental health.
We can meet one another outdoors, while maintaining the minimum safe distance of 6 feet. Remember that talking projects more respiratory droplets than breathing, so you must keep your distance, even outdoors where respiratory droplets are more likely to dissipate quickly. Be sure to check conditions in your state and county so you know whether additional precautions may be necessary. The NY Times is making much of their coverage available for free and they have a great interactive tool here.
Continue honing your skills through online lessons. Students have adapted quickly to taking online voice-lessons and they continue to develop their singing technique. We’ve been very pleased with their continued progress.
Let’s prepare to perform for an audience that is hungry for live shows just as soon as theaters and other venues open their doors again. One way or another we are planning to have our Studio Recital in the fall. Stay focused!
Don’t lose hope! We’re just as disappointed as you are about this. Our lives have been all about singing and making music with other singers. This interruption will pass. We can’t say how long it will last, but we know it won’t be forever. Stay the course. Take care of yourselves and your families. We look forward to seeing you again in-person as soon as it is safe to do so.