Shouting to be understood from six feet away, having to repeat every second sentence on a Zoom call: the pandemic can feel like a bad time to be soft-spoken. But research analyzed by The Atlantic shows that quiet talking may actually help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Think of virus particles as a plume from your mouth and nose: when you shout, a high volume of particles are pushed out into the air around you. When you whisper, the amount of particles reduces radically.
It doesn't seem like a huge deal, but talking like you're at a library can have big benefits. One researcher, Jose Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told The Atlantic writer Derek Thompson it could possibly lower the risk of transmitting COVID-19 up to five-fold.
One study published in June found that wearing face masks reduces your risk of transmission by 85%. So talking quietly could be about as effective as putting on your mask, though mask-wearing remains essential.
Jimenez also said that complete silence — no whispering, nothing — could bring down your risk of transmission by a factor of 50. If you just don't feel like talking to anyone right now, this is a good excuse.
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But what about all the protests? A June study of #BLM protests found that the outdoor, masked, socially distant gatherings didn’t increase coronavirus cases. But stick to sign-waving if you’re not sure, and stay home if you feel sick.