What's The Risk Of Going To A Religious Service Around The Holidays?

In our series "What's the Risk?" experts weigh in on what risks different scenarios pose for transmitting COVID-19.
Posted at 7:47 AM, Dec 02, 2020

As the holiday season begins, you might be wondering about the risks of getting sick with COVID-19 as you make plans to celebrate. 

We asked the experts, what’s the risk of going to a religious service around the holidays?

Their take: attending a religious service is high risk.

"The risk of going to a religious service at a synagogue, church or other place of worship or gathering will highly depend on the number of people, the space, the ventilation. And if it's indoors or outdoors," Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, infectious disease specialist at Nebraska Medicine, said.

"We've seen a lot of outbreaks actually in religious congregations' sites," Dr. Irfan Hafiz, Infectious Disease Physician and Northwest Region Chief Medical Officer, Northwestern Medicine, said, "And especially if they're not adhering to social distancing and masking guidelines, it just further just really, really starts to escalate then. An important point is it's not about you, the individual who may perceive themselves as being healthy, getting COVID. It's about you acquiring that and spreading it to somebody who's not well. "

"If you're attending a service that is in a large venue that's well ventilated, where masks are expected and people are going to be socially distant. That's a pretty low risk environment and one that that I would be comfortable being a part of. If you're on the other end of the spectrum and this is rather going to be in a typical space with people sitting shoulder to shoulder, potentially without masks, that's a higher risk environment," Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said.  

For more answers on what is low, medium, or high risk, visit