Singing, Covid-19, and the Future of Live Entertainment – Part 2
Read part 1 of this blog post here.
Since the early days of the covid-19 pandemic, singing has been a super-spreading culprit leading to an effect on the future of live entertainment.
What about Singing?
Until Covid-19 emerged, just one study, conducted in 1968 and prompted by choir-related TB outbreaks, had analyzed particles generated by singing. The study involved just three singers, none of them professionals.
Forty years later, the explosion of choir-related coronavirus outbreaks prompted larger, more robust, and more sophisticated studies. These trials, in combination with prior flu-focused research, provide insight on the safest way to reopen live entertainment and dining venues.
Scientists at Sweden’s Lund University, for example, compared respiratory emissions from 12 vocalists, including seven opera singers, under three conditions: singing, reading a book out loud, and breathing silently.
With metal funnels fitted around their faces, the volunteers performed for 2 minutes at a time while a vacuum pump continually introduced fresh air into the funnel. A high-speed camera imaged the emissions produced by five of the singers.
Overall, the results were unsurprising: “Normal singing generated significantly more aerosol particles than normal talking. Loud singing produced more particles than normal singing.” Also, the professional singers generated about twice as many particles as the amateurs.
One finding, though, was intriguing. While loud singing and loud talking both generated vastly more particles than normal talking and breathing, the difference between both types of loud vocalization was relatively small. In other words, infection might spread as readily at a noisy pub as at musical performance.
University of Bristol scientists obtained similar, but even more dramatic, results when they studied emissions from 25 professional singers from a broad range of genres — gospel, opera, jazz, and pop, among them.
Performing in a highly filtered operating theatre, volunteers sang single notes at different pitches. They also sang and spoke the “Happy Birthday” song at multiple volumes.
Like the Swedish scientists, the UK team found singing generates more aerosol than talking — about 1.5 to 3 times more. These differences, however, were “eclipsed by the effect of volume on aerosol production.”
Both loud singing and loud talking produced an astonishing 20 to 30 times more aerosolized particles than vocalizing at a typical volume.
Why Pubs and Future Live Entertainment Music Venues Must Clean the Air
Loud singing and loud talking — those are the hallmarks, along with exuberant merrymaking. TradFest, Dublin’s annual 5-day celebration of Irish music and culture. Since 2005, the festival has drawn top bands and massive crowds to historic churches, castles, and pubs. It’s an aerosol eruption of the highest order. Yet when the pandemic struck, organiser Martin Harte was determined not to cancel. With the right precautions, he felt, live performances could happen, even if live audiences could not.
At the time, plastic dividers and relentless surface cleaning protocols were all the rage in entertainment and hospitality. “Everyone was obsessed with handwashing and hygiene, as opposed to cleaning air,” Harte recalls. Even today, more than a year into the pandemic, “disinfectant mania” persists while ventilation, filtration, and air dis-infection are undervalued.
“Some people still don’t get it,” asserts microbiologist Emanuel Goldman, Ph.D., of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “They’re distracting the public from the measures that can really protect them.”
Among the most protective measures is air dis-infection, particularly NanoStrike technology, used in Novaerus portable devices.
Inside Novaerus’ sleek, compact units, coil tubes produce an electrical discharge that obliterates pathogens at the molecular level. Instantly, the DNA of a virus or bacteria becomes inert, harmless debris, and clean air is released back into the room.
Noaverus technology has been used in over 60 countries to fight Covid-19, particularly in hospital operating rooms, Covid wards, emergency departmentes, waiting rooms, and surgical theatres.
That’s largely why Harte chose Novaerus as his solution for TradFest 2021. For five days, musicians performed at Dublin Castle, with portable Novaerus units parked in the castle’s historic rooms but out of camera range.
“Novaerus isn’t a hygiene product,” says Harte. “This is something you’ll find in an ICU, in a neonatal unit. That was the level of protection we wanted.” The devices featured prominently in TradFest’s safety proposal to the Office of Public Works, the government agency that operates Dublin Castle.
“Novaerus helped us hugely in securing approval to use the castle and made all the difference in getting musicians to agree to perform,” Harte says.
In independent laboratory testing, the Defend 1050 has demonstrated a 99.99% reduction of live SARS-CoV-2 virus, within 30 minutes. Like other Novaerus units, the Defend 1050 shown similar efficacy with other airborne pathogens, including influenza, Clostridium difficile, Aspergillus, and surrogates for Measles virus, tuberculosis, and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA).
NanoStrike technology also destroys surrogates for tuberculosis and measles — two deadly pathogens that, while tamed, were never eradicated and continue to plague the globe, infecting millions each year. That may be the destiny of SARS-CoV-2, a virus expected to circulate well beyond the end of the pandemic.
For this reason, Harte says, and because he knows that noisy conversation itself can generate highly infectious aerosol plumes, he has encouraged bars and restaurants throughout Temple Bar, Dublin’s primary tourist district, to deploy Novaerus devices.
“I don’t think you can safely open any establishment, anywhere, without cleaning the air.”