Preliminary results from a scientific study in Germany had good news for live music and sports fans, as they showed promising results for safely holding events indoors amid the pandemic. Researchers put together a live concert in front of volunteers in the summer, and their findings suggested that certain tactics can make such events relatively safe, even before a vaccine is developed.
The preprint findings have not yet been peer reviewed, and even if they prove out, they would depend on both event organizers and attendees sticking to the safety protocols. But the findings, coupled with good news Monday regarding the development of a vaccine that could prove effective against COVID, are buoying hopes of a return to live events in larger numbers than currently allowed by most government agencies.
“There is no argument for not having such a concert,” says Michael Gekle, part of the team that conducted the study. “The risk of getting infected is very low.”
Study participants were tested for coronavirus prior to the event, then wore N95 respirators at the concert, which featured musician Tim Bendzko. The arena was divided into three groups, with one not distanced, a second with “moderate” distancing, and one with strict distancing restrictions. All of the concert attendees – some 1,500 – were volunteers, and all wore proximity tracking devices.
Using computer modeling, the researchers analysed the flow of aerosols from “infected” patrons inside. Ventilation is a major key to the safety guidelines suggested by the study. When coupled with mask wearing, social distancing, and hygiene protocols, researchers believe that “low to very low” spread could be achieved at such events.
“The most important finding for us was understanding how crucial it is to have good ventilation technology,” says Stefan Moritz. “This is key to lowering the risk of infection.”
Recommendations from researchers also included having multiple entrances and exists, seating spectators in ways to avoid crowding at ingress and egress, limiting food to seated areas, and employing venue staff to enforce distancing and hygiene rules.