Researchers say putting masks on instruments reduces COVID risk

Putting a mask on certain instruments can effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19 similar to wearing a face mask, according to a new study from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The researchers focused on three different possible ways to mitigate COVID-19 spread when playing brass, woodwind, and reed instruments, including putting masks on them.

The scientists behind this new study used multiple methods to evaluate the potential spread of SARS-CoV-2 from singers and musicians who play wind instruments. This is the first study to report findings on the chance of spreading COVID-19 when playing instruments and methods that can effectively reduce the odds of transmission.

According to the study, face shields and Plexiglass aren't needed to address COVID-19 transmission risk because, to put it simply, the air blows around these two mitigation efforts. Instead, keeping a distance of several feet between singers and musicians helps reduce the risk, as does playing outside and limiting the amount of time spent playing together.

When it comes to sessions that take place indoors, the researchers say musicians should spend less than 30 minutes playing together; that number jumps to less than 60 minutes when playing together outdoors. Beyond that, the researchers report that the air that escapes from the keyholes in reed and woodwind instruments doesn't present any sort of significant boost in transmission risk.

In addition to social distancing and limiting playback time, the study also found that a properly made and fitted mask put on the end of wind instruments also helps reduce the spread of COVID-19, filtering out some particles and limiting the distance they can spread by reducing their speed. The findings suggest that live musical performances can potentially resume in some cases when effective mitigation efforts are utilized.