For some people, coming together and singing can be a great way to overcome stress, but for fans of choir, 2020 is here to put yet another full stop to the fun as new research has revealed how dangerous group singing can be in terms of pathogen spread. Published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, a video shows the reach of water droplets that are released from our mouths when we sing aloud, spelling disaster for singing groups.
The researchers used an image-based flow diagnostic system to visualize the spray of droplets that are released during singing. Using LED light and a spherical lens that controlled the beam of light, they were able to capture the spray of liquid released while a participant sang a major scale. Their results revealed that around 75 percent of the droplets released went away from the mouth and didn’t settle for some time, following an ambient airflow pattern that would facilitate pathogen spread among a group of people standing stationary. The authors conclude that the threat of small airborne droplets spreading Covid-19 among choirs is significant, and anecdotally there have been several spreading events to back the theory.
For most interactions such as quietly shopping or walking down the street, current social distancing methods are reasonably effective at preventing the spread of Covid-19. Singing, however, produces an above-average amount of water droplets and aerosols than are released compared to speaking. Germany and the Netherlands have already banned all group singing activities following a series of choir-related outbreaks in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Washington State. In one superspreader event in the US, a single person infected 52 people during a church choir practice.
Back in August, an Australian television series called "The Masked Singer" had to be suspended after several crew members tested positive for Covid-19. Despite the show’s fitting title (the masks worn are not of the surgical variety, FYI), the entire production team, including celebrity singers, the host, and judges, had to go into self-isolation following the outbreak. It happened amidst a spike in cases in Melbourne where the show was being filmed.
So, if you’re feeling low and in need of a little singing to pick you up, it might be best kept to the shower.