COVID-19 Infectious Diseases


Here at PHC, we are shining a light on how Music Therapists at St. Vincent’s Langara are keeping music performances safe for long term care residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the many things from pre-pandemic life that COVID-19 took from us was live musical performances – gathering with friends and loved ones to enjoy sound and connection.

So when we saw outbreaks occur at musical performances early in the pandemic, Music Therapists at St. Vincent Langara’s, a long term care home located in Vancouver and operated by Providence Health Care, knew that they needed a solution.

“We came together as a team and brainstormed ideas how we could keep this program going while ensuing we kept everyone safe,” says Lucy Thomas, Music Therapists at St. Vincent’s Langara.

Studies done to make music performances safe during the era of COVID-19

As with many other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, research from the American Chemical Society examined the extent music, specifically singing, has in regards to airborne particles, aerosols, and carbon dioxide levels emanating from performers.

Researchers and mechanical engineering graduate students from the University of Colorado, Tehya Stockman and Shelly Miller, conducted a study that examined aerosol production and flow from various musical activities, as well as test different mitigation strategies.

This study showed that placing a surgical mask over a singer’s face reduced the plume velocities and lengths and decreased aerosol concentrations. By using these tactics, Stockman and Miller were able to model viral transmission in indoor and outdoor environments, finding that the lowest risk of airborne COVID-19 infection occurred at less than 30 minutes of exposure indoors and less than 60 minutes outdoors.

Adapting Langara’s music program during COVID-19

“We are keeping [music therapy sessions] under 30 minutes in length. Proper PPE is being worn and physical distancing is being enforced,” says Thomas. “We have even tried new things too. For example, loose-leaf tea covers over the microphones for residents to use to sing solos or partake in Karaoke sing-alongs. Also, plastic covers over the song sheets for sing-alongs, which can be sanitized between uses.”