9:36 AM PST, December 6, 2021
A new study has found that men transmit the COVID-19 virus at higher rates than women or children.
Researchers at Colorado State University discovered that simple biology was the reason men spread coronavirus particles in greater numbers than any other member of the public: Their lungs are bigger.
The months-long survey was designed to document what the performing arts community could do to lessen transmission of the virus during the pandemic. Live shows, from school plays to Broadway, were shut down as cases skyrocketed across the country. The performing arts was one of the most dramatically impacted groups of the contagious virus.
“COVID shut the performing arts down almost overnight,” said Dan Goble, director of Colorado State University’s School of Music, Theater and Dance. “It wasn’t just a CSU problem, this was a national problem. Think about all the public-school bands, choirs and orchestras,” he told CBS Denver.
Goble worked with John Volckens, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to conduct the study of more than 75 participants.
The subjects were comprised of different ages and skillsets. Some were asked to sing “Happy Birthday” repetitively. Others were asked to perform songs on instruments as air particles were measured.
“Singing definitely emits more particles than talking,” Volckens said. The study, titled “Reducing Bioaerosol Emission and Exposures in the Performing Arts: A Scientific Roadmap for a Safe Return from COVID-19,” was intended to focus on the spread of coronavirus in performing arts locations. But it also uncovered more information about the virus itself.
“Adults tend to emit more particles than children,” Volckens said. “The reason men tend to emit more particles is because we have bigger lungs.”
Those who speak loudly also emit more coronavirus particles, he explained.
“The volume of your voice is an indicator of how much energy you’re putting into your voice box. That energy translates to more particles coming out of your body. These are particles that carry the COVID-19 virus and infect other people,” Volckens said.
Loud, enclosed locations including bars and concert arenas are susceptible contagion levels. Performances such as ballets, which have little audience response, are safer. The study confirmed the need for proper ventilation at indoor venues, as well as masks and proof of vaccination to help limit aerosol spread of the virus.
“The performing arts did the right thing by shutting down in 2020, they definitely saved lives,” Volckens said. “Because we know now, when you sing or talk at a loud volume, you produce more particles.”