An aerosol study commissioned with the support of Arts Ed NJ and a coalition of more than 125 performing arts organizations has generated a second set of preliminary results that provides further optimism for the mitigation of the coronavirus’ impact on performing arts activities, according to a press release distributed on Aug. 6 by Arts Ed NJ.

Preceded by initial results released in July that centered on “aerosol” droplets transmitted from a soprano singer and subjects playing four different musical instruments, the second phase of experimentation investigated aerosol from additional singers and instruments, as well as theater performers. A final report, which will incorporate more testing on the aforementioned areas along with speech and debate activities and an aerobic simulation, is expected with the completion of the study in December.

“Going back to school has risks. School administrators and educators are working hard to reduce that risk with approaches including the use of masks, social distancing, proper hygiene and other mitigation strategies to reduce the level of risk,” said Bob Morrison, director of Arts Ed NJ. “The same is true for arts education. With proper mitigation performing arts classes and activities can occur. Our position is clear. If our students are in school, the arts are in school, period.”

Dr. Mark Spede, president of the College Band Directors National Association, said he was encouraged by the preliminary results of the study.

“The goal of this study from the beginning was to identify the issues of aerosol production in performing arts activities, and to find a way forward so these activities will survive the pandemic,” said Spede, a co-chair of the study. “We are identifying ways performing arts participants can meet in person with the lowest risk possible.”

Powered by research teams at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland, the study’s second round of findings is highlighted by five principal takeaways related to masks, distance, time, air flow and hygiene with the goal of creating the safest possible environment for bringing performing arts back into classrooms, band rooms, rehearsal spaces, performance halls and on athletic fields, according to the Arts Ed NJ press release.

The most recent findings for performing arts participants in music, band, choir, speech and theater reinforced the masking measures from the original study results. Those results found that affixing masks to participants and applying bell cover “masks” to musical instruments significantly reduced the range of aerosol particle emissions. Personal masks should be well-fitting, multi-layered, washable or disposable, and surgical in style, according to Arts Ed NJ.

The full press release from Arts Ed NJ is available here.

A memo to New Jersey educators, with more specific guidance on how to reduce transmission of aerosol droplets is available here.