<< Back

Quiet, Please! How It Can Help Stop COVID-19

September 03, 2020

Shhhhhhh! We’re trying to prevent infection here!

Keeping your conversations quiet – or not having them at all! – is the latest suggestion for containing the spread of COVID-19. Dr. Jose Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who researches disease transmission, told The Atlantic that loud conversation and yelling increase the amount of particles sprayed into the air. In an infected person, those particles contain virus.

“Every route of viral transmission would go down if we talked less, or talked less loudly, in public spaces,” Dr. Jimenez said. “This is just a very clear fact. It’s not controversial.”

This is especially true when talking indoors or in crowded spaces, according to his research. Separate findings published early in the pandemic in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a professional journal, showed that talking at a normal level can transmit the virus to those close by and talking loudly spreads even more viral particles.

Breathing or whispering doesn’t cause the respiratory system to emit large droplets which, when landing on another person, can transmit COVID-19 and other viruses. When compared to yelling, soft conversation reduces the droplets by a factor of five and staying silent reduces them by a factor of 50.

This understanding makes volume control key, Dr. Jimenez noted, adding that talking quietly reduces the risk of viral transmission by a degree comparable to wearing a mask correctly.

“The truth is that if everybody stopped talking for a month or two, the pandemic would probably die off,” he said.

This seems to be the plan, he said, in Japan where passengers on the crowded subway system are largely silent. The country – which stresses avoiding what health officials call the three Cs (closed spaces, crowded places and close contact/conversations) – currently has 98 percent fewer deaths from COVID-19 than the United States.

Dr. Jimenez called it the “library rule.”

“People need to understand that this virus is in the air, and that they breathe out 10 times more virus when they are shouting or speaking loudly,” he said.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care provider.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Listen and subscribe to Hartford HealthCare’s More Life series on Apple Podcasts by clicking here.

Stay fit. Stay happy. Stay healthy. And keep on top of COVID-19 with Hartford HealthCare’s daily text alerts. Subscribe by texting MoreLife to 31996.