Summary by Deanna McBroom MM
Member of NATS, PAMA and AATA Covid Task Forces
The first report of preliminary results of the 85+ member performing-arts-coalition-sponsored study on Aerosol Emissions by performing artists was released on July 13 by lead researchers: Dr. Shelly Miller (Univ. of Colorado-Boulder) and Dr. Jelena Srebric (Univ. of Maryland). CU-Boulder’s report offers descriptions and actual videos of healthy performers playing/singing in a “clean” room, showing the emission of a significant level of aerosols during performance. UMd’s report analyzed the concentration of airborne COVID-19 particles, showing animations and charts that document virus distribution by an infected individual in three settings over 10, 20, 30, and 60 minutes: 1.Outdoors in a light wind, 2.Indoors with an overhead HVAC air exchange, and 3.Indoors with an overhead air input/floor-level outflow air exchange. Report link: https://www.nfhs.org/media/4029952/preliminary-testing-report-7-13-20.pdf
All are encouraged to view these preliminary results: data collection slides with colorful videos/animations and charts/tables providing explanations. These are followed by bulleted remarks and a list of general considerations to advise musicians, directors, HVAC technicians, and administrators on making decisions and choices regarding safe practices and mitigation options for specific instruments and for students and teachers in performing arts classrooms, studios, and rehearsal/performance spaces.
A sampling of results shows the following general considerations based on a very small sample size: masks should be worn by all students and staff. Outdoor settings are safer than indoor ones. Some instruments may be played more safely with variously effective masks and coverings. Singing with a mask reduces aerosol emissions, but they may leak around the edges and smaller aerosols may still penetrate masks. All talking should be minimized in these spaces to reduce the overall number of aerosol particles released. The distance of a 6’x 6’ radius boundary encircling each performer is recommended and rehearsal times of 30-45 minutes are preferred. “Risk of infection begins to rise steeply, especially with an exposure duration greater than 30 minutes.” Trombones require a 9’x6’ social distance. A formula for air exchange and air cleansing for spaces is provided, typically 60 minutes between sessions. Existing HVAC systems should be fitted with HEPA filters and HEPA air purifiers must be appropriately sized to the rehearsal space in order to be effective. A Risk Assessment Estimator developed by CU-Boulder is available to assess spaces at: https://tinyurl.com/covid-estimator
It should be emphasized that these “preliminary results are from the first week of exploratory testing and are being provided [now] to assist in the safe return to classrooms. A decision to explore winds and brass instruments first was made as marching bands are currently beginning rehearsals for the fall season. Additional information on vocal, theatrical, and aerobic (dance/athlete) tests will be ready by the end of July and will be reported in a similar fashion. Deeper analysis will follow and results will be added to the body of peer-reviewed science.” For questions, contact Dr. James Weaver, NFHS Director of Performing Arts and Sports at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covid-19 Coalition of Performing Arts Organizations Study main page: https://www.nfhs.org/articles/unprecedented-international-coalition-led-by-performing-arts-organizations-to-commission-covid-19-study/
National Federation of State High Schools Covid-19 Resources page: https://www.nfhs.org/articles/performing-arts-covid-19-resources/
National Association of Teachers of Singing COVID Resources page: