Singing at graduations, yelling at protests is not safe during pandemic

Community organizer Keith James addressed protesters on May 31 in Wilmington.

With a weekend filled with high school graduations and at least a half dozen protests across the state, people have reason to raise their voices in spirited ways. But health officials are now cautioning against yelling, singing or any sort of voice projection, saying it is now unsafe to do so because of the threat of COVID-19.

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) issued the new guidance this week based on evidence that the disease is easily spread through coughing, sneezing, singing and shouting.


Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of DPH, said COVID spreads easily from person to person through airborne respiratory droplets of varying sizes that can stay suspended in the air “for a long period of time,” behaving much like an aerosol.

She also cited a CDC study showing that airborne particles can travel up to 13 feet away from the infected person.

But she added that if people wear face coverings, it all but eliminates the spread of both large and small droplets that otherwise would float in the air and potentially infect someone else.


“A face-covering can make all the difference, whether somebody is inside or outside, but especially in a crowded situation, like a protest,” she said at a COVID press conference on Tuesday. “One of our concerns about crowds or large amounts of people coming together is the spread, and the more people the more potential there is for more people to become infected,” she said.

A speaker in this video yells “stay healthy” multiple times both with and without a mask. The green drops in this picture show tiny droplets of particles emitted when the speaker is not wearing a mask.


Rattay showed a video of hundreds of tiny neon green airborne particles traveling through the air showing speech-generated particles. When that same speaker wore a face mask while raising his voice, and no particles could be seen traveling from his direction.

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