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These People More Likely to Spread COVID, Study Finds

Avoid these environments to stay safe from coronavirus infection.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned Americans into epidemiologists in real time—the everyday realities around new variants of the coronavirus are constantly changing, even before the fundamentals of the virus are fully understood and told. One new study has shed light on some of those potential fundamentals—basically, that certain people are more likely to spread COVID, and because of that, certain environments are more conducive to virus transmission. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

These People Are More Likely to Spread COVID

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Men and people who speak loudly may more easily spread COVID-19, a research team at Colorado State University has found.

In a study published last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, researchers examined respiratory aerosol emissions from a panel of healthy people who sang and talked in a lab while masked and unmasked.

The researchers found:

  • singing produced 77% more aerosolized particles than talking
  • adults produced 62% more aerosols than minors
  • males produced 34% more aerosols than females 

"Is singing worse than talking when it comes to how many particles are being emitted? Yes, according to the study. And, the louder one talks or sings, the worse the emissions," the university said in a news release.

2

Study Inspired by Superspreader Event

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The study was inspired by a March 2020 choir practice that became one of the country's first documented COVID superspreader events. In the outbreak, which occurred in Washington state, only one person who attended a two-and-a-half-hour practice had COVID-19 symptoms. But 33 out of 61 choir members ultimately tested positive for the virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted 20 more "probable" cases. Of the entire group, three people were hospitalized and two died.

Colorado State University undertook the study to determine how performing arts groups could safely return to the stage.

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3

What's Behind the Gender and Age Differences?

Male And Female Students Singing In Choir At Performing Arts School
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"Adults tend to emit more particles than children," John Volckens, a professor in the CSU department of mechanical engineering and a lead author of the study, told CBS News. "The reason men tend to emit more particles is because we have bigger lungs."

As to why the virus is more readily spread by louder talkers: "The volume of your voice is an indicator of how much energy you're putting into your voice box," said Volckens. "That energy translates to more particles coming out of your body. These are particles that carry the COVID-19 virus and infect other people."

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4

Noisy Venues More Dangerous?

The study suggests that loud indoor venues—such as bars, concert venues and arenas—are at greatest risk for COVID spread, said Volckens. He added that events with infrequent loud audience responses, such as the ballet, seem to be safer.

"The performing arts did the right thing by shutting down in 2020, they definitely saved lives. Because we know now, when you sing or talk at a loud volume, you produce more particles," Volckens told CBS.

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5

How to Stay Safe Out There

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Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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