Why Singers Might Be Covid-19 Super-Spreaders

Choirs are a secret lifeblood of our country. It’s unclear when and how we’ll ever sing together again.

Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

The louder you are, the more particles you emit and the greater risk you would infect the people near you.

A few of us even appear to be “superemitters,” spreading an order of magnitude more of these fine aerosol particles for an as yet unknown physiological reason, the UC Davis researchers found in a 2019 study in Nature’s Scientific Reports. Because the particles are invisible to the naked eye, there is no way to know whether the singer sitting next to you at rehearsal could be a superemitter. (They are not to be confused with superspitters, who are easy to spot — looking at you, Ben Platt.)

Handel wrote his ‘Coronation Anthems’ to be performed for King George II in Westminster Abbey, not into a laptop in my study with my mic on mute.

I fear for the mental health effects on members who have lost their support system. “We find ourselves in an environment that is the antithesis of our mission, which is about connection, social engagement, and the nuance of blending voices,” says Catherine Dehoney, president and CEO of Chorus America. “The social, emotional, and physical benefits we reap from singing together are not able to be replicated individually in the same way.”

Sara Austin is a writer and editor in New York. She has held senior editorial positions at Real Simple, Cosmopolitan, Self, and Marie Claire.

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