Choruses and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
(image via pixabay)
Chorus America continues to track news and collect information about the impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) from our members and partners. This page serves as our central hub of information to help you stay informed about reopening and advocacy developments as the choral field moves forward together.
- Current CDC guidance recommends that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
- Summary of Current COVID-19 Related Guidance from our partner organization ACDA: "Due to the Delta variant currently circulating widely in the United States, the CDC recommends all people – vaccinated and unvaccinated – wear a mask in public indoor spaces if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission (94% of all counties in the U.S. as of Aug. 18) in order to ensure maximum protection for yourself and to prevent potential spread to others. The protocols of masking, increased ventilation, and distancing work. Based on this updated guidance and the current research on singing and aerosols, ACDA encourages choral conductors to follow these protocols if singing inside. The three-minute video “COVID-19 Mitigation Strategies for Choir,” which shares results from the Performing Arts Aerosol Research Study, provides a clear and concise explanation of those protocols." See ACDA's COVID-19 Resources page.
- COVID-19 Interim Guidance for BHS Ensembles and Singing Communities from our partner organization, the Barbershop Harmony Society. See BHS's COVID-19 Resources page.
- Joint Statement by ACDA, NATS, Chorus America, Barbershop Harmony Society, PAMA et al. on Vaccinations and Best Health Practices (Jun. 23, 2021)
What's Next for Fall: Updates on Preparing for a Healthy, Safe Reopening
Doctors Jelena Srebric, Neha Nanda, and Lucinda Halstead share the latest information about COVID-19 and variant research, safety guidance, and best practices for rehearsing and performing in the months ahead through a series of one-on-one conversations with Chorus America president and CEO Catherine Dehoney. Videos of the conversations will be posted publicly here as they are recorded.
Returning to In-Person Singing and Performing
We're currently collecting resources to help choruses budget and plan, from thoughts on rehearsal protocols to audience behavior.
- Prepare for Fall: Public Health Updates and Member Forums Starting in late August, Chorus America will host a series of events to help choruses stay on top of COVID-19 developments and planning for the fall. Events include public conversations with doctors advising performing arts organizations, and Member Forums on September 14 and 16. Find more information and sign up for Member Forums here.
- Reopening Decisions: How Choral Leaders Are Bringing Singers Back Together This article from the Summer Voice shares a framework for making difficult decisions about masks, distancing, vaccinations, waivers, and other safety protocols the course of the season.
- Chorus COVID Planning - Preliminary Survey Results (August 19, 2021) Chorus management software company Chorus Connection is conducting a survey to gather information on Fall 2021 plans and protocols to help choruses learn more about what peer organizations are doing. Here are preliminary results on 14 key questions, focusing specifically on Fall 2021 rehearsing and performing.
- What's Next: Preparing for a Healthy, Safe Reopening A panel of doctors with experience advising performing arts organizations and choruses shared the latest updates in COVID developments and vaccination efforts (as of June 28, 2021) at Chorus America's Summer Conference. The on-demand-video is publicly available.
The Pros and Cons of Vaccine Mandates This comprehensive Q&A format article from law firm Venable LLP addresses many aspects of vaccine mandates, including vaccine requirements and volunteers.
Vaccine Considerations from the Legal Perspective (May 7, 2021) In the U.S., under federal law and current guidelines, choruses—like other private employers and organizations—can require staff, volunteers, and audiences to get vaccinated in most cases. Here is more detail about those guidelines.
- Waiver Examples Thank you to the member choruses that have shared their organization's documents as examples. These plans are specific to each organization and are meant to provide a reference rather than be definitive guidance for developing your own.
- Survey Examples Thank you to the member choruses that have shared their organization's documents as examples. We would like to collect more examples of singer and audience surveys that choruses are using to prepare for the return to in-person singing; please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an example you would be willing to share.
- Singer Communication Examples
- Rules for Safe Rehearsals in the Fall (posted August 2021) from Encore Creativity, a choral organization that serves adults ages 55 and older.
- Audience Communication Examples
- Audience Requirements and Expectations - Cappella Romana (linked August 2021) Includes Cappella Romana's vaccine policy for audience members, safety protocols, other audience requirements, and ticket refund policy.
- COVID-19 Policies and Protocol - Kantorei (linked September 2021) Includes a disclaimer and release of liability.
- Know Your Own Bone blog by Colleen Dilenschneider: data-driven insights into audience intent to visit cultural institutions
- WolfBrown Audience Outlook Monitor: WolfBrown has launched Audience Outlook Monitor, an international collaboration between top researchers, funders, service organizations, and hundreds of cultural organizations who want to make informed decisions about how and when to re-start programming based on rigorous research data. Several choral organizations have been part of this research.
Arts Organizations at a Crossroads Toolkit
This free online resource from NCAPER was created to guide arts leaders through three significant transitions they are likely to face during their organization’s life: structural shifts; the loss of key staff/leadership; and preserving the artistic and physical assets they’ve created.
- Guidance for Making Legal and Structural Choices presents the various options for exploring a different type of structure, dormancy or closure.
- Protecting Your Knowledge Assets focuses on cross-training, and implementing a system for capturing the knowledge of key individuals.
- Managing and Preserving Your Legacy offers tips from professional archivists, and from arts organizations which have taken steps to protect their assets and reputation.
Research and Data Resources and Tools:
- Performing Arts Aerosolization Study (led by University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maryland) This webpage was updated on August 27, 2021 with a 35-minute video conversation on mitigations for Fall 2021 with Dr. James Weaver (NFHS), Dr. Mark Spede (CBDNA/Clemson), and Bob Morrison (Arts Ed New Jersey). This includes a variety of activities (Speech, Debate, Theatre, Music, etc) from the elementary to collegiate levels.
COVID-19 Exposure Assessment Tool, CEAT The San Francisco Bach Choir uses this tool to make decisions about rehearsal and performance requirements. Says the Choir's Tricia Bell: "It allows us to compare the relative risk represented by different scenarios which can be precisely modeled according to our local conditions, including such factors as the size, ventilation, and filtration characteristics of the room; number of singers, their vaccination, and masking status; duration of the event; local prevalence of disease including the Delta variant; and a number of other factors. With this tool we can see what impact various choices would have on our overall safety."
- Colorado State Mask Efficiency Evaluation Tool (including singers masks)
Relief Funding and Congressional Action
Chorus America is working with our advocacy partners to stay on top of the latest developments as the federal government enacts new forms of relief.
SVOG Relief Funding Update (April 22, 2021) The SVOG funding applications, which were supposed to open Thursday, April 8, have still not opened. Senior White House leadership indicated that a launch date could come by the end of the week of April 19, but also stated that applicants would have the opportunity to review a new FAQ and applicant guide in advance of the portal re-opening. New guidance has not yet been released.
This website which includes frequently asked questions and other SVOG details, is the best source for information for those looking to apply for a grant. To prepare in advance of the SVOG application portal opening, potential applicants should get registered in the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM.gov), as this is required for an entity to receive an SVOG, and reference the preliminary application checklist and eligibility requirements.
American Rescue Plan Act Information (March 16, 2021) The Performing Arts Alliance (PAA), of which Chorus America is a member shared a comprehensive update on the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden. The plan will extend many current COVID-19 relief provisions and provide critical new ones. Update highlights are below; you can read the full update and sign up to receive news directly from the PAA here.
Paycheck Protection Program: An additional $7.25 billion will be added to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) resources, and eligibility changes will allow nonprofits with no more than 500 employees at each location to be eligible for forgivable loans. As of March 7, the SBA PPP Data show that $165 billion of the $280 billion of PPP funding made available for 2021 has been distributed to loan applicants. The 2021 PPP program is now open for all eligible applicants for first and second draws and is currently slated to close on March 31, 2021. (Update from March 25: the PPP deadline has been extended to May 31, 2021.)
New Dual Eligibility for Shuttered Venue Operators Grants and PPP: Rules that had required applicants to choose between seeking a 2021 PPP loan or a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant have changed.
Under the new terms of the American Rescue Plan, 2021 PPP recipients will be eligible to apply for a Shuttered Venues Operators Grant (SVOG) and deduct the value of their 2021 PPP loan from the applicant's SVOG maximum grant amount (45% of 2019 earned revenue, capped at $10 million).
While the SVOG program has not yet opened for applications, the Small Business Administration is releasing eligibility guidance on the SVOG website and through continuously updated SVOG Frequently Asked Questions. SBA FAQ's indicate eligibility for the 28-day priority period for receiving Shuttered Venue grants will be determined based on declines in gross revenue (90% for the first fourteen days and 70% for the second fourteen days), from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 as compared to 2019. All SVOG applicants must demonstrate a 25% decline in earned revenue, in one calendar quarter of 2020, compared to the same quarter in 2019.
An additional $1.25 billion in funding will be available to support the SVOG program, bringing total funding to $16.25 billion.
Employee Retention Tax Credit: The refundable payroll tax credits that are currently available in the first two quarters of 2021 will be extended through the remainder of the calendar year.
National Endowment for the Arts COVID-19 Relief: The National Endowment for the Arts will receive an additional $135 million -- its largest emergency funding -- in dedicated funding, with 40% allocated to state/regional arts agencies and 60% to support direct grants to organizations. Here is an FAQ with more information. The NEA will release further information about the process and timeframe for implementing new grants soon, and anticipates guidelines being available in late April.
Presented in partnership with National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), and Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).
Preliminary Study Results on the Safety of Singing (August 10)
This webinar discusses the singing specific content from the preliminary study results on aerosols in the performing arts being undertaken at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Maryland. Guests include Dr. Jelena Srebric, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland and a lead researcher on the Performing Arts Aerosol Study jointly funded by leading performing arts organizations; and otolaryngologist Dr. Lucinda Halstead, president of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA).
- CDC Considerations for Events and Gatherings
- Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide
- University of Cincinnati College - Conservatory of Music COVID Research
- Western ACDA Division paper
- ACDA COVID Resources
- Chorus America COVID Resources
- Barbershop Harmony Society COVID Resources
- NATS COVID Resources
Singing - What We CAN Do (May 26)
This webinar focuses on examples of how singers and singing ensembles are producing their art now, as physical distancing guidelines continue to be in place. A variety of guests will share promising projects and existing and emerging technologies that keep us connected and singing. The discussion will be moderated by Chorus America board chair Brian Newhouse, and feature guests including Francisco and Elizabeth Núñez of Young People's Chorus of New York City and G. Phillip Shoultz of VocalEssence. Access the webinar recording here.
What Do Science and Data Say About the Near Term Future of Singing? (May 5)
Chorus America joined with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), along with American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), and Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) to present an important webinar on May 5 about the near term future of singing as we seek fact based solutions in protecting our singers, teachers and conductors during this time. Access the webinar recording and related resources here.
Cancellations and Postponements
- Chorus Connection: What To Do When Your Concert Gets Canceled
- iCadenza: Cancelled gigs due to coronavirus?
- Chorus Connection: Transforming Your Fundraising Event into a Virtual Event, or a Non-Event
- Performing Arts Website: Financial Losses Calculator
- Chorus Connection blog
- ArtsReady: Emergency Preparedness and Insurance Policies,
- Event Safety Alliance - Webinar: 8 Steps that Should be Taken by Organizations that Host Public Events
Monitoring the Situation
This situation continues to develop, and affects different communities in different ways at different times. In addition to monitoring information from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to check your state and local health agencies for guidance specific to your location.
The CDC have issued guidance to help businesses and employers and are working to produce planning guides for COVID-19 that community-based organizations can use.