From horn players to singers to dancers: How can we safely return to the performing arts? A new study, 'Reducing Bioaerosol Emissions and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID-19, is underway at Colorado State University, which may lead us to some answers. 

It's well known by now that large gatherings can escalate the spread of the virus, which is why so many safety precautions are put in place for attendees (like disinfectant spray... really). But, what about the performers? John Volckens, a professor of mechanical engineering, and Dan Goble, the director of the School of Music, Theater and Dance, are teaming up to find the science in the art of safe performing.

Orchestra playing concert in bandshell

'Researchers will aim to determine how far airborne particles and droplets are projected by those playing wind and brass instruments, singers, actors and dancers, and whether steps can be taken to protect both performers and audience members from the risks of co-exposure to COVID-19,' CSU said in a press release about the study.

While we maintain six feet from others to prevent transmitting the virus though the droplet particles we emit by breathing and talking, researchers say that the 'forced breathing' of performing arts may present even more of a risk.

That's why a team of researchers at CSU are using the Powerhouse Energy Campus to analyze aerosolized particles in a simulated environmental testing (SET) facility.

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'This project will provide a robust, scientifically rigorous dataset to develop solutions addressing aerosol spread during artistic performances,' the study says. 'Findings will inform guidelines aimed at reducing risks to artists for use by performing arts national and international governance bodies.'

In other words, they're going to see how much of a risk a trumpet player or dancer may have in transmitting the virus. You can see the study in full here, and if you love the performing arts and would like to contribute funding, you can do that, too.

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