A virus walks into a bar…

Packed Bars Serve Up New Rounds Of COVID Contagion | Kaiser Health News – By Jordan Rau and Elizabeth Lawrence June 25, 2020

As states ease their lockdowns, bars are emerging as fertile breeding grounds for the coronavirus.

Public health authorities have identified bars as the locus of outbreaks in Louisiana, Florida, Wyoming and Idaho.

Bars are tailor-made for the spread of the virus, with loud music and a cacophony of conversations that require raised voices. The alcohol can impede judgment about diligently following rules meant to prevent contagion. 

On top of that, the very act of drinking is incompatible with wearing a mask, a primary way of limiting the spread of infection.

The risk of contagion is impossible to eliminate at bars, especially since many infected people are asymptomatic.

And that really is a loss when socializing becomes a danger instead of a benefit.

A Virus Walks Into a Bar … – The New York Times – By Tara Parker-Pope – June 2020

Everything you love about your neighborhood bar — the ambience, the crowds, the music, the free-flowing alcohol — makes it the ideal place to catch Covid-19.

Around the country, bars are becoming a common source of coronavirus outbreaks.

What makes bars so risky? Every bar is different, but many bars are housed in dark, narrow, indoor spaces with no windows and little room to move around.  

Unlike restaurants, which can space tables far apart, bars typically have fixed bar stool seating along the bar and a layout that forces people to gather closely in clusters.

Long conversations in close contact are believed to play an important role in transmission of many viruses, including the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Research shows that we can release up to 10 times more particles through speech than a cough.

Yet the CDC “official response” to the virus was to tell us specifically not to wear masks and focus on touched surfaces. This went against all common sense because other viruses, like the annual “flu”, spread from breathing in sick people’s exhalations, not from touching something or sneezing on people.

People go to bars specifically to be in a group, so it doesn’t take a genius to understand that bars are just about the best place to “catch something”.

“Cozy spaces” are deadly these days, especially since indoor spaces are often poorly ventilated to save money.

Studies also show that the particles we emit during talking and loud speech are potentially more infectious than the larger droplets we expel during a cough or a sneeze. Smaller particles persist in the air for longer time periods before settling, increasing the risk that someone nearby could inhale them. Smaller particles also can travel further into the respiratory tract.

Bars also tend to play loud music, which can prompt people to move closer together to talk, increasing risk for infection

Loud speech can be more risky for viral exposure than normal speech.

Last year the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, reported that particle emission increases with the amplitude of speech. A person

  • speaking quietly emits about 6 particles per second, while
  • loud talking (without yelling) emits 53 particles per second.

I’m surprised to see that loud talking (which is the only kind you can do in a noisy bar) releases almost 9 times as many particles.

I wonder how many particles are emitted when bar patrons watching sports cheer (definitely yelling) for their team.

1 thought on “A virus walks into a bar…

  1. canarensis

    There are so many things about this pandemic that this country has handled EXACTLY backward, it’s impressed me on a whole new level with societal & governmental incompetence. And I thought I couldn’t get more impressed on those areas.

    I have been reading about how herd immunity may not be possible b/c apparently people’s antibodies to the virus drop within just a couple of weeks. I found graduate classes in immunology (& working in an immunology lab for 3 years) to be about the most complex aspect of biology I ever encountered, so don’t understand how a specific virus could cause this rapid drop in antibodies. I know antibody loads decrease over time, which is why ancient folks like me who have a smallpox inoculation scar are no longer immune to smallpox, but I was under the impression that that kind of drop off occurred over years, not weeks. But if we can’t can’t achieve herd immunity to this thing…what the heck is going to happen? An eventual complete withdrawal of isolation techniques* b/c they can’t go on forever, & then a Darwinian selection that weeds out anyone who can’t survive the virus? Pretty scary stuff. I’ve been a proponent of lowering the human population since before I was physiologically capable of reproducing, but this wasn’t what I was thinking of…

    *speaking of governmental incompetence, Oregon just this past week started requiring masks in public. Way to go, Oregon! Wants to be the most savage against opioids AND can’t grasp any other basics of public health. We’re #1, baby.



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