A week or so ago, the Prime Minister of Canada had a cringe-worthy moment during an address to the nation. Anyone who has ever spoken in public, during a meeting, at a family dinner and even just one-on-one with a friend has likely experienced a speaking blunder. If you’re lucky, you just experience an awkward moment and it is soon forgotten. If your blunder is on a larger scale, like Trudeau, you may end up with viral meme and various remixes on YouTube. A word to the wise, do not tell a nation that wearing masks prevents you from “speaking moistly” – even if it is true!
It’s possible that when Prime Minister Trudeau was giving his speech, he had been privy to some new research that has now been published in New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers of the study looked at method to visualize oral fluid droplets while speaking. I’m sure we have all had that moment when we’re talking with someone and get grossed out when you visibly see spit leaving their mouth. I know I have been in situations where I myself have done that on stage and know exactly what my inner voice is saying.
When it comes to respiratory infections like COVID-19, transmission of the virus via respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing are always at the top of our minds. With reports that COVID-19 is spreading in the community via asymptomatic carriers, looking at aerosols and droplets generated during speech is certainly something we need to consider. Obvious droplets generated from talking are one thing, but droplets or aerosols generated during normal speech that cannot be seen could be a source of transmission – especially if you are not socially distancing. The truth is that talking does create droplets and of course if you are sick, these droplets have the potential to transmit disease both directly, when the droplet comes in contact with another person, or indirectly, when a person touches a surface that is contaminated from your moist talking.
The researchers looked at the size of droplet generated when talking with and without a face mask on. They found that droplets ranging from 20µm – 500µm were created, and the louder you talked, the more droplets you generated: WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE STUDY FINDINGS.
The study did not go on to correlate the impact of talking with transmission, but previous studies have shown that the number of droplets generated during sneezing and coughing were similar in number, but smaller. The smaller the size means the droplet has the chance to travel farther.
Social distancing is a key component of helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. While there may be differing sides in terms of if the general public should or should not wear masks, it would appear that Prime Minster Trudeau was on to something when he introduced the concept of “speaking moistly”.