3. Attending a religious service indoors: High risk
Worship services involve people from different households coming together indoors, for an extended time. “All of the ingredients are there for the potential for a lot of people becoming infected in the short amount of time,” says Kimberly Powers, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She points to outbreaks linked to churches: In one, 35 out of 92 people who attended a service at a rural Arkansas church developed COVID-19.
Singing — whether from the pews or the choir — is high risk, several experts noted, citing a study of a choir practice in Washington state where over half of attendees became infected.
What alters risk: If people are appropriately socially distanced, wear masks and avoid singing, it may reduce the risk, Karan says. Also avoid any shared worship items like hymnals, Janowski adds.
Risk goes down if places of worship adapt, Guzman-Cottrill says. “My parish began having in-person services last week,” she says. The church had advance sign-ups to limit attendance to 25 people. Attendees were required to be healthy, wear face coverings and sit at least six feet apart.