The COVID myth debunked: musical instruments do not spread the virus any more than normal speech

WASHINGTON- Does blowing into a musical instrument really spread COVID-19 more than just talking normally? Despite warnings against holding live musical events throughout the pandemic, a new study debunks the theory that the use of wind instruments is a public safety concern.

COVID has decimated the live music industry. As events and festivals were postponed and canceled across the country, wind musicians suffered another blow as they were replaced by strings. However, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania worked with musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra to discover that woodwinds actually blow air particles. much slower than coughing and sneezing.

In a study published in the journal Physics and Fluids, the researchers tracked fog particles in the air with a laser and used a particle counter to measure the concentration of air escaping from a snorkel. Combining the results, the doctors developed a simple equation to describe the slowing of the speed of the aerosol as it shoots from its source, showing when the flow stops.

They found that the output velocities of wind instruments are much lower than coughs and sneezes and have a concentration and size distribution similar to those of chattering and breathing.

Visualization of the flow emanating from a tuba using the laser sheet technique. The image shows a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Carol Jantsch, principal tubist, who participated in the study of the dispersion of aerosols by wind musical instruments. (CREDIT: Paulo E. Arratia)

Wind musicians should only social distance, not stop playing

For most instruments, the spray ends about two meters from its opening. As a result, researchers recommend that wind musicians stay six feet apart like other people.

“Ideally, musicians would sit next to each other to compose the best sound, but such an arrangement has become an issue during the COVID pandemic,” says author Paulo Arratia of the University of Pennsylvania in a statement. hurry.

“We were surprised that the amount of aerosol produced was in the same range as normal speech,” says Arratia. “I expected much higher flow velocities and aerosol concentrations.”

Next, the team will study contamination between an entire orchestra playing together.

“I hope this manuscript will guide health officials in developing protocols for safe, live music events,” concludes the researcher.

South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.


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