Do Musical Instruments Spread the Coronavirus?

As with pretty much every other activity right now, having the quintet gather outdoors is a great idea. If any neighbors complain, explain that the backyard practices are part of a global effort to keep them from dying. If anyone happens to be infected, any virus that emanates in the heat of performance will likely fade into the sky and disperse like the music itself. Indoors, as any parent of a child who’s learning an instrument knows, everything is trapped and can echo around the room indefinitely.

Some instruments do seem to pose more risk than others. Obviously, string instruments can be played without even opening your mouth, but it sounds like your daughter’s quintet is too far along to take kindly to a suggestion that they all learn new instruments. Because the virus is sent into the air by talking, coughing, and singing—any forcible exhalation of air through the pharynx—playing a woodwind or brass instrument would logically pose a risk. These instruments are effectively designed to amplify what’s coming out of our mouths and to carry the sound. A 2011 study of vuvuzelas (the long, straight plastic horns that people blow at soccer games) found that their capacity for spreading infections could be tremendous. Compared with shouting, blowing through the horn sent several hundred times more particles into the air.

Thankfully for everyone, kids don’t train for vuvuzela quintets. Woodwind and brass instruments send air through a maze of twists and turns, and buttons create turbulent airflow patterns that don’t simply shoot everything out in a piercing plume. Breathing into a convoluted contraption such as a saxophone or a tuba, then, actually serves as a sort of filter that collects the larger droplets you might be spewing out. This is familiar to anyone who has emptied a spit valve and seen what pours out.

The real question is the potential danger of smaller, aerosolized particles that can blast out of an instrument and linger in the air. In May, the Vienna Philharmonic reported that it had conducted a study of the aerosols from various instruments. Researchers hooked tubes up to musicians’ noses, and as they played, they inhaled an aerosolized salt solution that could be visualized when it was exhaled. The researchers mapped the clouds of air around musicians while they were playing and reported that none of the instruments sent respiratory droplets beyond the commonly recommended radius of six feet. In most cases, no significant amount of the aerosolized salt particles were detectable coming out the end of the wind and brass instruments. Flutes were the worst offender, passing a “large amount” of aerosol in a cloud covering two and a half feet.

In July, another study in Germany offered findings and hope similar to those from Vienna. But neither study measured actual coronavirus particles, and the overall evidence is still thin. Doctors at the University of Iowa have expressed concern about the rigor of both findings, given

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Japan supercomputer shows humidity affects aerosol spread of coronavirus

By Rocky Swift

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese supercomputer showed that humidity can have a large effect on the dispersion of virus particles, pointing to heightened coronavirus contagion risks in dry, indoor conditions during the winter months.

The finding suggests that the use of humidifiers may help limit infections during times when window ventilation is not possible, according to a study released on Tuesday by research giant Riken and Kobe University.

The researchers used the Fugaku supercomputer to model the emission and flow of virus-like particles from infected people in a variety of indoor environments.

Air humidity of lower than 30% resulted in more than double the amount of aerosolised particles compared to levels of 60% or higher, the simulations showed.

The study also indicated that clear face shields are not as effective as masks in preventing the spread of aerosols. Other findings showed that diners are more at risk from people to their side compared to across the table, and the number of singers in choruses should be limited and spaced out.

The research team led by Makoto Tsubokura has previously used the Fugaku supercomputer to model contagion conditions in trains, work spaces, and class rooms. [nL4N2EF0ZY]

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Michael Perry)

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VA Governor Credits Lack Of Spread Among Staff To Mask-Wearing

RICHMOND, VA — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was cleared to hold in-person meetings Monday after spending 18 days in isolation due to a positive test for the coronavirus that caused minor symptoms in the governor. Both Northam and his wife — Pamela Northam — tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, a day after a worker in the governor’s mansion received a positive test after showing symptoms.

The local health department in Richmond performed contact tracing of 65 people who had come into close contact with Northam over a period of 48 hours prior to his positive test, all of whom were instructed to quarantine. None of the 65 people, many of whom were staff members, showed any symptoms for the coronavirus or tested positive during their quarantine period, and all of them are back to work, the governor said Tuesday at a news conference in Richmond.

Northam said the lack of spread among his staff demonstrates the effectiveness of wearing masks while on the job. “I truly believe that it is a testament to wearing these masks,” he said.

“My press secretary and official photographer and security detail traveled with me for several hours at a time the week that Pam and I were diagnosed,” Northam explained. “And we wear our masks in the car or on the plane, and thankfully none of them got sick. I would remind every Virginian, masks are scientifically proven to reduce the spread of this disease, plain and simple.”

Northam compared the lack of spread of the coronavirus among his staff to what happened at the White House Rose Garden ceremony where President Donald Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court. Many people who attended the event, including Trump, have since tested positive for the coronavirus.

“A gathering where people cavalierly sat together, stood together, hugged each other … no masks, no social distancing, and look at the number of people who tested positive,” the governor said. “We talk about science. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”

“The guidelines that we are following in Virginia, they work,” Northam emphasized. “And when we don’t follow those guidelines, we have outbreaks like you saw in Washington.”

Northam said that both he and his wife are no longer experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus. But the governor stressed that he understands their experience with the disease was mild compared to the thousands of Virginians who have been hospitalized and died from COVID-19.

Virginia Coronavirus Data

On Tuesday, 1,235 new coronavirus cases were reported in Virginia, bringing the cumulative total to 160,805 cases. The positive average of PCR tests is at 4.5 percent statewide.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, there have been 3,372 deaths and 11,598 hospitalizations among COVID-19 patients in Virginia. Tuesday’s total reflected 11 new deaths across the state.

On a regional basis, the eastern and northwest regions reported a positive average of PCR tests at 4.0 percent as of Oct. 9. Other regional

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Is it safe to go to the dentist? What doctors are doing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus

America’s dental offices are reopening after months of handling only emergencies. All 50 states now allow routine dental care, like teeth cleanings and cavity fillings, but dentistry is considered one of the highest risk professions for the coronavirus.

“If someone asked me in January, ‘Hey, ever think about taking three months off from dentistry?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, when I retire.’ It was never on my radar that we would have to shut down for this long,” Dr. Peter Shatz, the chairman of the Georgia Dental Association’s COVID-19 Innovation Task Force, told CBS News senior medical correspondent Dr. Tara Narula. 

He’s one of the people trying to help dentists navigate complicated guidance from the state, OSHA and CDC on how to reopen safely.

“We were stood up to help our members better understand the complexities of the coronavirus … from science, research, availability of PPE,” Shatz said.

About 90% of dental offices in the U.S. were open for elective care by the first week of June, but it won’t be business as usual.

“So the traditional waiting for your doctor’s appointment inside the reception area is gone,” Shatz said. “We send a team member out into the parking lot actually to shoot a temperature, make sure that they’re not experiencing any illness.”

What makes dentistry so high risk isn’t just proximity to patients’ mouths. It’s also the nature of the procedures themselves.

Using a high-speed handpiece to do fillings or root canals could aerosolize viral particles if they are present, said Dr. Kirk Norbo, who co-chaired a COVID-19 task force for the American Dental Association.

“We’re hand scaling now the teeth, rather than using the Cavitron or the ultrasonic scalers … to create as safe as an environment as we can,” Norbo said.

The CDC recently updated its guidelines to address routine dental care, stressing the importance of PPE, allowing downtime between patients and prioritizing emergency care.   

But a number of hygienists told CBS News they feel it’s still too soon.

“I’m telling all of my friends and family, do not go to the dentist. It’s probably the worst, most dangerous place you can go right now just because of the nature of the work with the aerosols,” Sara Mercier said.

Shatz and Norbo disagree and worry delaying care could lead to other health issues.

“The biggest risk in dentistry is uncontrolled infections and those could lead to systemic disease, can aggravate underlying heart problems,” Shatz said.

Norbo said he thinks it’s safe to go to the dentist. 

“The biggest thing I’d say is we’re here for you,” Norbo said. “We’re back in business, we feel like we’ve got a safe environment for our patients to return to.” 

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Deaths across the US spiked as Covid-19 spread in March and April, new analysis finds

“Notable increases” in deaths were seen in March and early April, the team led by the Yale School of Public Health found. This was especially true in New York and New Jersey, states hard-hit by the pandemic.

The study was first reported by the Washington Post.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the team found about 15,000 excess deaths from March 1 to April 4. During the same time, states reported 8,000 deaths from Covid-19. “That is close to double,” Dan Weinberger, who studies the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Yale, told CNN.

The team could not show whether the increased deaths were due to coronavirus, Weinberger said. But there are strong indications that they were. For instance, the team also looked at data on doctor visits.

“What we see is that in many states, you see an increase in influenza-like illnesses, and then a week or two later, you see an increase in deaths due to pneumonia and influenza,” Weinberger said. “It provides some confirmation that what we are seeing is related to coronavirus.”

Plus, in especially hard-hit states such as New York and New Jersey, where coronavirus is known to have spread widely and infected many people, overall deaths were far in excess in what would normally have been expected in March.

“In New York City, this discrepancy was even more stark, with three to four times as many excess all-cause deaths as pneumonia and influenza deaths,” the team wrote.

Public antibody testing ramps up as US coronavirus cases approach 1 million

Some states, such as New York, seemed to keep up with the Covid-19 deaths. The state reporting of deaths in the pandemic closely tracked what the Yale team found. But others did not.

“For instance, California had 101 reported deaths due to COVID-19 and 399 excess pneumonia and influenza deaths,” the team wrote in a preprint published online in MedRxiv (pronounced Med Archive).

The new coronavirus causes respiratory disease, and deaths would presumably be listed among the regular reports of deaths and illness from pneumonia and influenza. But doctors are increasingly reporting other, sometimes fatal, symptoms from Covid-19, including strokes, kidney failure and heart damage.

Patients already weakened by pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease may have had a death listed as being due to one of those causes, rather than coronavirus.

Plus, it’s possible that coronavirus lockdowns would have led to a lower-than-average death rate. For instance, if fewer people were driving, traffic deaths could be expected to fall, Weinberger said.

So Weinberger’s team looked at both deaths from pneumonia and influenza, and deaths from all causes.

“We decided to look at all deaths from pneumonia, or all deaths overall, and see how those numbers were changing,” Weinberger said.

The virus hunters who search bat caves to predict the next pandemic

The CDC tracks deaths from pneumonia and influenza by the week, and compares them to a baseline of deaths to keep tabs on the annual epidemic of seasonal flu. Separately, the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the CDC, keeps data on all reported deaths.

The Yale-led team subtracted the

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When should you go to the dentist during COVID-19’s spread?

When should you go to the dentist during COVID-19's spread?
VCU School of Dentistry dentists manage emergency care in the VCU Dental Care clinic. Credit: Allen Jones, University Relations

Routine dental procedures are important to overall health. But with the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus, the novel coronavirus, the American Dental Association is recommending postponing elective dental procedures.

David Sarrett, D.M.D., dean of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Dentistry and associate vice president for health sciences, has been among the leaders speaking up about the importance of dental practices scaling back to focus on urgent and emergency care and taking greater precautions during COVID-19’s spread.

Sarrett is a fellow in the American College of Dentists and a member of the ADA and the American Dental Education Association, among others. He has been a national leader with the ADA and currently serves on the Virginia Dental Association Board of Directors.

Sarrett shared his expert opinion this week in a video conversation with the Virginia Dental Association and answered questions. After speaking to his fellow dentists, Sarrett spoke with VCU News about when patients need to go to the dentist for emergency care and what dental practices can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

How were decisions made about recommendations to postpone elective dental procedures?

I am a member of the Virginia Dental Association Board of Directors. This past Sunday, as we were planning to stop elective dental care, the board held an emergency conference call. Members of the board had been in touch with ADA leadership or attending meetings at the ADA offices in Chicago. These board members recommended the closure of dental offices across Virginia for elective and routine dental care and only providing urgent care. I reported that we would support that 100%, based on our decision to shift VCU Dental Care’s practice to urgent- and emergency-only care.

The ADA recommendation came after the Virginia Dental Association and other states, such as Ohio, were already recommending this. I feel the VDA was a leader on this issue.

What does the ADA’s decision to recommend postponing elective procedures mean for patients?

Assuming dentists comply, or this becomes mandated by governments, they will have to delay most of the planned dental work and preventive visits. VCU Dental Care has developed a list of urgent care issues to determine if it is appropriate to treat the patient or delay treatment. This list can be found on our patient care website: vcudentalcare.com/covid19.

Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University

What kinds of dental procedures qualify as emergencies?

VCU Dental Care is now restricting treatment to urgent or emergency care only. We define this as:

  • Severe toothache pain (on a pain scale of 1 to 10, a 5 or more that has lasted more than 24 hours)
  • New or recent swelling of your gums or face (within the past three to seven days)
  • Bleeding in your mouth that does not stop following tooth extraction or gum surgery
  • Tooth infection
  • Recent trauma (a broken tooth causing pain)

If I’m a patient, when should I go to

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