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COVID-19

Study: Wind instruments spread COVID-19 no more than normal speech does

Physicians developed a simple equation to describe aerosol's speed slowing as it shoots from its source.

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Trumpet player in orchestra
(CCISUL via Shutterstock)

By Pol Allingham via SWNS

Wind instruments spread Covid-19 no more than normal speech, suggests a new study, despite concerts being canceled during the pandemic on safety grounds.

The live music industry was decimated during the pandemic. As events and festivals were postponed and canceled across the country, woodwind musicians faced another blow as they were switched out for strings.

But the University of Pennsylvania worked with musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra to discover woodwinds actually blow out air particles far slower than coughing and sneezing.

In a study published in Physics and Fluids, researchers tracked fog particles in the air with a laser and used a particle counter to measure the concentration of air flying from a tuba.

Combining the results, the physicians developed a simple equation to describe aerosol's speed slowing as it shoots from its source, showing when the flow will stop.

Saxophonist fingers playing a piece during a street festival.
(MorphoBio via Shutterstock)

They discovered woodwind instruments' exit speeds are much lower than coughing and sneezing, and have similar concentration and size distribution to chatting and breathing.

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

Author Professor Paulo Arratia, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: "Ideally, musicians would sit near one another to compose the best sound, but such an arrangement became an issue during the COVID pandemic

"We were surprised that the amount of aerosol produced is of the same range as normal speech.

"I was expecting much higher flow speeds and aerosol concentrations."

Next up, the team will study contamination between a whole orchestra playing together.

Arratia added: "Hopefully, this manuscript will guide health officials to develop protocols for safe, live musical events."

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