COVID-19 Risk Management Guidance

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Development of the Guidance

SA Health welcomes this collaboration with the Adelaide Choral Network, to promote the public health messages around COVID-19 and assist people who sing in choirs to make informed choices about how they participate. 

Given what we know about the contribution that singing makes to the wellbeing of so many people, we are pleased that the Guidance provides choirs with clarity between the mandatory Government requirements and additional options they can choose to adopt depending on their individual circumstances, enabling them to take responsible and practical steps to reduce the risks of spreading the virus in a group singing situation.

This is another great example of how South Australians are working together so we can keep each other safe and continue doing the things we enjoy.

I welcome the initiative and support the recommendations. 

Professor Nicola Spurrier,

Chief Public Health Officer, SA Health, Government of South Australia

Media Release 18/3/21

Until COVID, Adelaide Choral Network (ACN) was engaging South Australia’s choral community in planning for the Adelaide Year of the Choir 2021, in partnership with the City of Adelaide.  

Established in 2019 through a partnership with the City of Adelaide to deliver the Adelaide Year of the Choir (AYC), we are a membership-based, not-for-profit Association bringing Adelaide’s choral community together to celebrate the breadth and vitality of South Australia’s choral activity and explore future possibilities.

When COVID-19 forced a rethink, and choirs went into recess across the board, ACN and City of Adelaide agreed to postpone AYC21 to 2022 and we refocussed towards finding a way for choirs to resume singing as safely as possible, while continuing to establish a network of all South Australian choirs. 

With our website now launched, choirs can join the network, create their profiles and start to plan together through a private portal in readiness for the launch of a public calendar.  We’ll continue to explore the social and health benefits of singing together through new initiatives where people will be encouraged to find their voice.

Any group of people who regularly sing together can join the Adelaide Choral Network and take part in AYC22.  

Adelaide Choral Network is committed to playing our role in making sure South Australia’s choral community can look to the future with confidence, resilience and strength. When the time comes, we will celebrate the Adelaide Year of the Choir and prove that choral singing is extraordinary in its range and repertoire, that there is a choir somewhere for everyone and singing together is uplifting for participants and audiences alike.

Adelaide Choral Network Steering Committee

Associate Professor Carl Crossin OAM: Founder, Artistic Director & Conductor, Adelaide Chamber Singers; Head of Vocal, Choral & Conducting Studies, Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide

Christie Anderson: Artistic Director, Young Adelaide Voices; Associate Conductor, Adelaide Chamber Singers

Matthew Winefield: Chair, Young Adelaide Voices

Aldis Sils: Music Director, Adelaide Philharmonia Chorus; Head of Music, Marryatville High School

Sarah Bleby: Director, Commercial & Special Programs, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

Jo Pike: Project Manager, Adelaide Choral Network; Business Manager, Adelaide Chamber Singers; Board Member, Young Adelaide Voices; Committee Member, Big Sing McLaren Vale

Laura Mohan-Ram: emerging conductor

More about the ACN Steering Committee 

The World Health Organisation declared the COVID19 disease to be a pandemic on 11 March 2020. 

Early in the pandemic, group singing was associated with three events of widespread transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a small number of people and the risks associated with choral singing were theorised to be in addition to the risks of larger groups of people gathering together. 

As speculation quickly spread about the risks, we recognised the need for a scientific assessment to establish what was known and not known—to find a pathway for choirs to safely and confidently resume singing together that was backed up by the available science, relevant to our situation here in South Australia, and recognised by government decision makers. 

We were further convinced by the results of a survey we put to the network, which revealed that being deprived of singing together made a significant impact on the psychological and emotional wellbeing of our choral community.

As a peak organisation in a designated UNESCO City of Music, we felt it was our responsibility to take the lead nationally to translate the available science into language that enabled choirs to make their own decisions appropriate for them.

In May 2020, the ACN Steering Committee met with the SA Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, and members of her staff and resolved to commission a review of the available scientific literature and develop mitigation strategies against the risk of COVID-19 transmission specifically for choral situations from the findings. ACN commissioned Rosemary Byron-Scott to carry out the review and collaborate with us on the development of the Guidance. Funding from Arts South Australia has enabled this process and the results are contained in these pages.

Since the pandemic began, Adelaide Choral Network has been committed to finding a pathway for singing to resume so the sector can look to the future with confidence, resilience and strength. 

[1] O’Keeffe, J. COVID-19 risks and precautions for choirs. National Collaborating Centres for Public Health/Centre de collaboration nationale en sante environnementale. British Colombia Centre for Disease Control. Vancouver 10 July 2020.

Rosemary Byron-Scott BSc MPH has a background in science and public health, experience in epidemiological research, and has worked in several roles monitoring and modelling public health practice in a government context. SA health agreed that Rosemary’s offer was an acceptable application for the ACN steering committee to continue with the process of developing a risk assessment and management process. Happily, Rosemary has also had a lifetime of choral singing and playing wind instruments and is thus well placed to carry out this work from both perspectives.

As all choristers know there is always a singing connection. It has been valuable to be able to draw on the assistance of the following choral singers and musicians who are also scientists and clinicians. Their contribution to the literature review by reading difficult journal articles, explaining concepts and reviewing the paper has been much appreciated. Peter Mahoney B Sc Hons, Professor Chris Burrell AO, Associate Professor Kenneth Pope, Dr Paul Henning, Affiliate Associate Professor Peter Baghurst.

SA Health: Professor Nicola Spurrier, Chief Public Health Officer, Health Regulation and Protection, SA Health; Dr Chris Lease, Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, Health Regulation and Protection, SA Health; Dr Tuong-Vi Phan, Public Health Medical Registrar, Health Protection and Licensing Services, Department for Health and Wellbeing; Dr Monica Nitschke, Principal Scientific Officer, Health Protection and Licensing, Department for Health and Wellbeing; Dr David Simon, Director, Scientific Services, Health Protection and Licensing Services, Department for Health and Wellbeing

We thank Arts South Australia for their commitment to our sector through the provision of funds to carry out this work.

Arts South Australia logo

Thank you to those choirs who responded to calls for information to feed into this report.  It has been valuable and we have incorporated many of the good ideas put forward.

South Australian choirs are as diverse as they are numerous.

They vary in age range and musical style, located across the state in regional centres, city locations and suburbs, and across the spectrum from community through to professional. Not all perform in public, but gather for the pleasure of singing together or for religious worship, and many community choirs, pre-COVID, visited nursing homes on a regular basis to share their joy of singing.  

Our definition of ‘choir’ is ‘any occasion where people gather in groups to sing’.

This guidance was written in consultation with SA Health and includes: 

  • A risk assessment of choral singing drawn from the scientific evidence currently available
  • A range of recommended strategies to mitigate against the risks of spreading the virus in a group singing situation 
  • References to the literature review and how this has informed the recommended control measures
  • A format which follows existing SA Government guidelines around COVID-Safe planning, both mandatory and recommended.

Guidance regarding performances is outside the scope of this document and it therefore does not specifically address performance issues—our main aim being making sure group singing could be resumed as soon and as safely as possible. 

We do however recognise that this is a crucial part of resuming normal activity for many choirs.

Many of the recommendations will however translate directly from the rehearsal room to the performance space in regard to the safety of performers, support staff, congregations in faith-based settings and audiences.

In a rapidly changing environment the performing arts sector will find creative ways to solve the issues, and solutions will emerge that we can all share. For example, checkerboard seating is now available in most commercial venues, but not yet available elsewhere.  This may change.

For those who are keen to delve a little deeper into the Literature Review that has informed the Guidance, you can find the document here. It is in two parts: "Risk mitigation for South Australian Choirs: a rapid literature review" and "Methods and study summaries".

This review was funded in part by a South Australian Government grant through Arts South Australia to produce the guidance.

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Risk mitigation for South Australian choirs: a rapid literature review Nov 2020

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Literature review methods and study summaries

This can and must be an evolving set of guidelines. The document will only be released online in this format. Over time the findings from scientific research will influence public health actions. Fortunately the pace of research into SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 has been rapid as the literature review shows. Should circumstances change, ACN may revise the guidelines along with an updated literature review.

Feedback is very welcome, especially from choirs using the information to resume singing.

Use the orange Feedback button which pops up on the right of your screen on every page.

Please let us know if you have found anything confusing or contradictory and we will attempt to clarify. 

If you have any strategies that are tried and tested that we haven’t included, please let us know and we can share them with everyone.

Please be aware that the Adelaide Choral Network Steering Committee are not scientists. We have commissioned the literature review and developed the Guidance with the help of a contracted consultant. Any alterations to the existing information in regards to the science will be made in consultation with SA Health.

Produced by the Adelaide Choral Network with financial assistance from Arts South Australia and the City of Adelaide, our Adelaide Year of the Choir Partner

Disclaimer

The content of "How Can We Keep From Singing: COVID-19 Risk Management Guidance for South Australian Group Singing" is provided for information purposes only. While care has been taken that the material contained is accurate and up-to-date at the time of publication, the information is provided on the basis that all persons having access to this Guidance will assume responsibility for assessing the relevance, completeness, currency and accuracy of its content and for the application of any information to their own particular circumstances. The subject matter of the report is in a dynamic field of rapidly changing conditions and increasing knowledge. Adelaide Choral Network disclaim any liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on any information contained in it (or any use of such information) which is provided in this Guidance or incorporated into it by reference.

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You can join our e-news list without becoming a paid up member of ACN—the perfect way to stay in touch if you’re an interested individual. Only the contact person on your choir’s profile will receive members-only info, so this a good way to sign up additional people in your organisation so they can receive general information from us.