There’s been a lot of talk about how the coronavirus spreads, and the CDC just changed their guidelines to indicate it can be spread through….singing. “It is possible that COVID-19 may spread through the droplets and airborne particles that are formed when a person who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes,” writes the CDC. “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes). In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.” Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
Even a Song Like ‘Happy Birthday’ May Be Dangerous
Studies back this up. “Compared to talking, singing often involves continuous voicing, higher sound pressure, higher frequencies, deeper breaths, higher peak airflows and more articulated consonants,” report authors of one Swedish study. “All these factors are likely to increase exhaled emissions.”
“The study shows that singing—particularly loud and consonant-rich singing—spreads a lot of aerosol particles and droplets into the surrounding air,” concludes Medical Xpress. “Some droplets are so large that they only move a few decimetres from the mouth before they fall, whereas others are smaller and may continue to hover for minutes. In particular, the enunciation of consonants releases very large droplets and the letters B and P stand out as the biggest aerosol spreaders,” says Malin Alsved, doctoral student of Aerosol Technology at Lund University of Sweden and co-author of the study.
“To understand how many virus particles are emitted when we sing, researchers had 12 healthy singers and two people with Covid-19 sing into a funnel,” adds the Daily Mail. “The study shows that singing—particularly loud and consonant-rich singing found in songs like Happy Birthday—spreads a lot of droplets into the surrounding air.”
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Protective Measures Must be Taken
The news comes after a summer in which people have died after singing. “Sixty singers in the Skagit Valley Chorale showed up to a two-and-a-half-hour rehearsal. Fifty-three of them became sick with the coronavirus, and two people died,” reports NPR about a Washington state group. Warned the CDC in May: “SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] might be highly transmissible in certain settings, including group singing events.”
“There are many reports about the spreading of COVID-19 in connection with choirs singing,” the Swedish authors write. “Therefore, different restrictions have been introduced all over the world to make singing safer.” These include moving church services outside or canceling choirs altogether, and wearing face masks.
“When the singers were wearing a simple face mask this caught most of the aerosols and droplets and the levels were comparable with ordinary speech,” says Jakob Löndahl, a co-author of the study, according to Medical Xpress. “Singing does not need to be silenced, but presently it should be done with appropriate measures to reduce the risk of spreading infection.”
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Dr. Fauci Agrees That Singing Transmits the Virus
Just last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, talked with Girls Trip and The Last OG star Tiffany Haddish about how singing transmits COVID-19. “It’s a respiratory-borne virus,” said Fauci. “So it is transmitted from one person to another, by very microscopic respiratory secretions. And this is important that I think people don’t understand that certainly could be from coughing or sneezing—but it could even be from talking because what we’re seeing now—and singing even more than talking. And that’s the reason why you saw all those people in the church, in the choir who got infected. So the way you prevent that is by what we keep talking about is a mask and physical distancing. Because if you stay a certain distance away and avoid crowds, yeah.”
As for yourself: Avoid singers unless preventative measures are taken, and to have many more happy birthdays in the future, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Update 9/22/20: After publication of this story, the CDC deleted its guidance from its website about the airborne spread of COVID-19, saying they posted it by mistake. “A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted,” Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, said in a response emailed to CNN. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, confirmed the very next day that the coronavirus is indeed airborne—see here for his remarks.