AUGUST 21, 2020
Singing is no more risky than talking, finds new COVID-19 study
The performing arts has been badly affected during the coronavirus pandemic with live musical performances canceled for many months because singing was identified as a potential “higher risk” activity. New collaborative research has shown that singing does not produce very substantially more respiratory particles than when speaking at a similar volume. The findings, published on the pre-print server ChemRxiv, are crucial in providing COVID-19 guidance for live musical performances and the safe distancing of performers and audience.
The research project, known as PERFORM (ParticulatE Respiratory Matter to InForm Guidance for the Safe Distancing of PerfOrmeRs in a COVID-19 PandeMic), was supported by Public Health England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and carried out by a collaborative team from Imperial College London, University of Bristol, Wexham Park Hospital, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Royal Brompton Hospital.
This is the first study to look at the amounts of aerosols and droplets (up to 20 µm diameter) generated by a large group of 25 professional performers completing a range of exercises including breathing, speaking, coughing, and singing. The experiments included the same individuals singing and speaking “Happy Birthday’ between the decibel (dB) ranges of 50–60, 70-80 and 90-100 dB.
Jonathan Reid, Director of ESPRC Center for Doctoral Training in Aerosol Science and Professor of Physical Chemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol and a corresponding author on the paper, said: “The study has shown the transmission of viruses in small aerosol particles generated when someone sings or speaks are equally possible with both activities generating similar numbers of particles. Our research has provided a rigorous scientific basis for COVID-19 recommendations for arts venues to operate safely for both the performers and audience by ensuring that spaces are appropriately ventilated to reduce the risk of airborne transmission.”
More information: Gregson et al., Comparing the Respirable Aerosol Concentrations and Particle Size Distributions Generated by Singing, Speaking and Breathing. (2020). doi.org/10.26434/chemrxiv.12789221.v1