- More than 100 people sang without masks in front of Vice President Mike Pence and a large audience in a megachurch in Dallas, Texas, on Sunday, according to CNN.
- Pence wore a mask in the audience but removed it for his address. He later urged mask-wearing, good hygiene and social distancing, CNN reported.
- The CDC has lifted its warning against singing in choirs, but they are still considered a possible “super-spreader” activity.
- Texas has seen a massive surge in coronavirus cases, with a recent average of at least 5,000 new reported cases a day, according to the BBC.
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A choir of more than 100 people performed for Vice President Mike Pence without face masks on Sunday at a megachurch in Dallas, Texas, CNN reported.
Footage of the “Celebrate Freedom” event at the First Baptist Church, where Pence also gave a speech, showed the choir spaced around two feet apart as they performed several songs at a distance from the audience.
Pence himself was seen wearing a mask as he disembarked his flight, to meet Texan Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, as well as in the church audience itself, CNN reported. However, he removed it to give his speech, the outlet reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously warned that group singing performances — like a choir recital — could be a “super-spreader event,” meaning it could transmit the virus easily.
Singing and projecting your voice could send droplets farther than the recommended six feet of social distancing, as Business Insider previously reported.
The CDC removed its guidance against singing in church choirs on May 22 despite the health warnings.
The First Baptist Church service took place as Texas struggles to contain a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus.
Gov. Abbott said the state was seeing a “swift and very dangerous turn” in the pandemic, with an average of 5,000 new cases reported each day, the BBC reported. Hospitals are hurrying to expand their intensive care unit capacity to cope with the increase.
The state has reported nearly 150,000 cases to date, and nearly 2,400 deaths, according to The Guardian.
It is one of several states seeing huge surges in the virus since lifting lockdown restrictions.
Pence himself urged mask-wearing “wherever it’s indicated” at a later address with Abbott, CNN reported.
“We know from experience, it will slow the spread of the coronavirus,” he was reported saying.
The surge in cases comes as businesses across the state start to reopen.
Pence said he does not believe the reopenings are causing the growth in new cases, CNN reported. However, health experts have attributed the new cases to the easing of lockdown restrictions.
Currently, Dallas businesses are allowed to reopen at 50% occupancy, and face coverings are required in all public places where social distancing is not possible. It is unclear if this applies to churches, where there is also no hard occupancy limit.
Dr Robert Jeffress, the senior pastor at the church and a Fox News contributor, wrote on Facebook on Sunday: “Thank you Vice President Mike Pence for a powerful, inspiring message at First Baptist Dallas today that all Americans need to hear! Millions of Christians are grateful for you and for our tremendous President Donald J. Trump.”
The First Baptist Church did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.