Wind Instruments Don’t Spew COVID More Than Speech: Study

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Good news for music lovers and musicians, too: Wind instruments don’t appear to project COVID-19 particles more than talking does, according to a new study.

New research from the University of Teknologi minyak atsiri Pennsylvania, along with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, found that wind instruments don’t spread COVID-19 particles any farther or faster than a human would during normal speech.

“We are probably one of the first studies to combine flow and aerosol concentration measurements to study aerosol dispersion from wind instruments,” says Paulo Arratia, PhD, a professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics at the university, who led the study.

Arratia and colleagues used a particle counter, humidifier, and green laser to visualize and measure how much and how quickly aerosols shot out of wind instruments (think: brass and woodwinds) as orchestra members played their instrument continuously for nearly 2 minutes. They measured the flow from many instruments, including flutes, clarinets, trumpets, and tubas.

The challenge was finding how far apart musicians could be to play their instruments without requiring a plexiglass barrier or risking the spread of COVID-19 to ensemble members or the audience, Arratia says.

The researchers created a fog-like environment near the instrument’s opening using an ultrasonic humidifier. A green laser lighted the artificial fog. With so much moisture in the air and a light source shining through, Arratia and the other researchers were able to measure the abundance and speed of the aerosolized particles.

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