Initial results of an aerosol study commissioned by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) and more than 125 performing arts organizations have yielded preliminary data and considerations that could help prevent the cancellation of performing arts activities in the future amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
This is the first of three stages of results for the study, which was launched in May behind lead funding from the NFHS, CBDNA, the National Association of Music Merchants and the D’Addario Foundation. More findings incorporating a wider range of activities are expected to be released later this month and again with the completion of the study in December.
“This study is the first of its kind and will be able to supply scientific data to allow us to find ways to return to the performing arts classrooms and performance halls,” said Dr. James Weaver, NFHS Director of Performing Arts and Sports, who co-chairs the study with Mark Spede, CBDNA President and Clemson University director of bands. “We have brilliant researchers and a global coalition that are working hard to find science-based solutions to return to activities during a global pandemic.”
“This endeavor, which has brought together an unprecedented number of music organizations, is seeking scientific solutions to keep music alive in the classroom through the pandemic,” said Spede.
Under the direction of lead researchers Dr. Shelly Miller of the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB) and Dr. Jelena Srebric of the University of Maryland, respiratory emissions analysis was conducted on subjects playing four different musical instruments – clarinet, flute, horn and trumpet – and a soprano singer to identify aerosol release pathways and measure particle size and concentration. Similar tests will now be run to find aerosol rates for additional music instruments and activities, as well as speech, debate, theatre and an aerobic simulation.
These preliminary results are to be used strictly for general consideration and will be updated as new information becomes available. To view a full report of the preliminary results, please visit: https://www.nfhs.org/articles/unprecedented-international-coalition-led-by-performing-arts-organizations-to-commission-covid-19-study/.
Among its most significant considerations, the study recommends masks be worn by all students and staff in a performing arts room – even while playing instruments when possible – and that no talking should be done without a mask on. Participants who cannot feasibly wear a mask over the mouth while playing should wear one on the chin and move it over the mouth when resting. Teachers can reduce their own emissions by using a portable amplifier to keep their voices at a low conversational volume.
Students should sit facing the same direction while adhering to social distancing guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with additional space provided for trombone players. Spit valves should be emptied onto a puppy waste pad (or similar) rather than the floor so that contents can be contained.
Where possible, existing HVAC systems in activity rooms should be fitted with HEPA filters, which will increase air filtration appropriate to the size of the rehearsal space.
Finally, as a supplement to the NFHS “Guidance for a Return to High School Marching Band,” the study found that bell covers – ideally fashioned from multi-layered, high-denier nylon material and placed over the bell of an instrument – made a substantial impact on performers’ aerosol pathways.
Thanks to a handy risk estimator tool developed by UCB, administrators and band directors who wish to assess the aerosol transmission risk relative to the unique elements of their rehearsal spaces can do so here: https://tinyurl.com/covid-estimator. (Note: scientific input values will change as the study develops.)