New California health order restricts ‘singing and chanting’ in houses of worship

Even as protests take place in public spaces across the nation, many common activities remain strictly regulated amid a continuing coronavirus pandemic.

In California, for example, the state’s Department of Health has issued an official order to prohibit singing and chanting in houses of worship.

Churches have been a common source of debate throughout the public health crisis as many Democrats have pushed to keep congregations small while some Republicans prefer to allow worshipers to gather in larger numbers.

“Increased rates of infection”

The latest California order states that “contaminated exhaled droplets” could perpetuate the further spread of COVID-19 in a state that has seen a spike in cases over the past few weeks.

“Even with adherence to physical distancing, convening in a congregational setting of multiple different households to practice a personal faith carries a relatively higher risk for widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus, and may result in increased rates of infection, hospitalization, and death, especially among more vulnerable populations,” the order added.

Citing specific activities, the health department asserted that “singing and chanting negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing.”

In accordance with the latest regulations, churches will be required to “discontinue singing and chanting activities” in addition to keeping congregations to 25% of normal capacity or 100 individuals, whichever is lower.

“Discontinue singing (in rehearsals, services, etc.), chanting, and other practices and performances where there is increased likelihood for transmission from contaminated exhaled droplets,” the order concluded.

“Please stay at home”

While ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice have largely received a pass from politicians otherwise concerned with the spread of the virus, Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti admitted the protests are contributing to the rise in reported cases.

“We do believe there is a connection, we don’t believe that everybody has been doing this safely and wherever you can, please stay at home,” he said this week.

Meanwhile, the state is taking action to further restrict the freedom of residents to worship.

When President Donald Trump declared houses of worship “essential,” in May, he faced criticism for getting involved in state decisions. Weeks later, more Californians are likely to find his call to reopen churches a cogent one.

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