On January 30, 2021 I participated in the annual TLU corporation board meeting online. In that meeting we were honored to be joined by Dr. Douglas Boyer, Director, TLU School of Music. He gave us some pointers on how TLU has, in the time of Covid-19 worked to have rehearsals for ensembles that are both as safe as possible and productive for the development of musicians. His notes are below. I would only add that to follow these guidelines takes a significant level of sophistication related to knowledge of facility air movement as well as absolute discipline from those participating. Please be careful in any circumstance where you might desire to have live music practices until Covid-19 cases are in a significant level of decline and vaccine penetration is high.
The following is from Dr. Boyer and in his voice…
“Thank you for your inquiry about recommendations for how to hold a safer worship service during coronavirus. I am not a Covid-19 specialist nor do I make any claims that this approach will work for all congregations. The protocols below involve the basic pillars of mitigation of the virus: masking, distancing, sanitizing and ventilation. Feel free to contact me should you have any questions. Stay well!
- Check ventilation in sanctuary (and/or other gather spaces) with an HVAC specialist. ASHRAE recommends a fresh air exchange rate of 8-12 changes per hour in a room regardless of size.
- If monetary resources allow, investigate with your HVAC specialist about the installation of UV lights into the ductwork of meeting places/sanctuary. This should be seen as an overall investment for the health of the congregation both now and in the future. The UV lights will continue to mitigate the spread of viruses, bacteria and allergens following covid-19.
- Masking of congregants throughout the service.
- Distancing of congregants. Block off every other pew. Mark 6 foot spaces on the open pews (easily removable blue or green painting tape works well) to give congregants a visual image of a six foot length.
- Dismissal of congregants in a way that does not allow them to pass through the bio-aerosols of others. (e.g. row by row in one direction)
- Save any congregational singing for the final 10 minutes of the service. The research data shows that, even with perfectly fitted masks, bio-aerosols begin to spread the moment someone sings. Exponential expansion and spread of the virus begins at approximately 25 minutes – this means that limiting the singing to the end of the service and for only a few minutes will help mitigate the spread of the virus among congregants.
- If you hold multiple services in the same space on the same day, allow adequate vacancy time in the space to allow for complete removal of the bio-aerosols. Your HVAC specialist can provide you with the air exchange rates. 8 air exchanges per hour is the minimum, and 12 air exchanges is better.
- If you do hold multiple services, disinfect high touch areas after the vacancy time and right before the next service. Do not allow people into your worship space during the vacancy time.
- Have hand sanitizer and disposable masks available at every entry point with instructions to mask, distance and sanitize hands for the safety of all congregants.
- Final note – community singing is one of the most dangerous activities during Covid-19. Schools of Public Health and research studies on bio-aerosol production have determined that even 9 masked singers should remain 12 feet apart and not stay in the same room for more than 30 minutes, regardless of the size of the room. This is how we approach our rehearsals at TLU – limit students to 9 in the room and limit the rehearsal time to 30 minutes. Limiting your service to 45 or 50 minutes is a good idea – and save any hymn singing for the very end of the service.”