Is Coronavirus Airborne? Washington Choir Members Contract COVID-19 Without Making Physical Contact

A church choir that met on March 10 in Skagit County, located in the state of Washington, has been affected by COVID-19 en masse. The choir was practicing for its spring concert, scheduled for late April at the McIntyre Hall for an audience of 650 in Mount Vernon city. 

As per the recent estimates, unfortunately, three people have been hospitalized and two have died in The Skagit Valley Chorale so far. However, with 45 out of 60 choir members diagnosed, the posptonement of the event is inevitable, though the official announcement has not been made.

How did this happen? Earlier during the month, the coronavirus had already infected people in Washington state, especially in the Seattle region. Though the choir members were aware of the news, they still gathered to practice because Skagit County remained unaffected. Schools functioned and large gatherings continued as usual, reported the LA Times. 

Generally, these amateur singers are an elderly lot, but this group had some young adults too.The choir members who came largely from the Northwest region of the state, however, did discuss the prospect of holding off the session. Choir leader Adam Burdick told the 121 members via an email that despite the constraints posed by the virus, the practice session was still on at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church.

Surprisingly, none of the participants who came to sing had symptoms of the cold or flu. They were offered hand sanitizer at the door, they took care to not make close physical contact and avoided embracing each other with hugs or handshakes. They also consciously maintained a distance of six feet from one another, as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Trump administration.

This highly recommended measure of social distancing did not work and ended up making 75 percent of the choir members sick. The outbreak was a total surprise to these church-goers, who would not have fallen sick had they been given the correct information. Therefore, the incident is a perfect example of the possibility of community spreading. 

The WHO had dispelled the so called notion that the virus is transmissible by air and explained that droplets fall quickly to surfaces if they emerge. This is because they said the virus can only potentially spread through “larger respiratory droplets” by coughing or sneezing. 

A new study has refuted claims made by the WHO. Led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the paper examined how long the virus really stays suspended in aerosol particles (that measure smaller than 5 micrometers). The research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that under laboratory conditions, SARS-CoV-2 remained potent in the air for up to three hours. In the outside world, this would translate to more than half an hour. 

This particular outbreak situation is a powerful warning to the public, Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech, told the LA Times. The expert on airborne transmission of diseases explained that certain people tend to exhale 1,000 times more fine material than others, causing the outbreak in the church gathering. The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which is attended by 1000-odd people to celebrate the spring season in the meadows in Mount Vernon, has been cancelled. 

Choir About 45 out of 60 church choir members rehearsing in Skagit County in Washington State caught the COVID-19 infection. Petersfield Chamber Choir by

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