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Flute Safety in the Pandemic

Here are some suggestions taken from on-line articles and publications on the subject of flute safety in the time of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as of March 2021.  NOTE:  It should be understood that the practices used to mitigate spread of the virus described below do not ensure against infection.

Question 1.  How can I keep my flute clean to get rid of most all of the viral particles?

Suggested Answer.  Most published information suggests using 70% isopropyl alcohol to rub down the metal surfaces, on the outside and on the inside of the flute.  One must be very careful not to get the alcohol on the key pads, bushings, corks and such (non-metal parts).  Viral particles can last a few days on the surface, untreated.  It is probably a good idea to consult your local flute technician, or the manufacturer of your flute, for more information and guidance.

Question 2.  What are safer practices for playing the flute in the company of others during the time of the novel coronavirus pandemic?

Suggested Answer.  As most everyone now knows, flute playing produces a respiratory air stream loaded with droplets and aerosols, much like singers produce.  Transmission of COVID-19 can be mitigated by ensuring musicians and audience members wear masks (if possible), socially distance themselves, wash their hands, and avoid shared equipment or materials.  The use of larger venues to reduce crowding, use of outdoor settings, routine cleaning of surfaces, shortened rehearsals and performances, and optimized ventilation may further mitigate risk of infection.

The most conservative advice to date would have flutists masked while playing.  Masks are more effective in stopping droplets than aerosols.  A curious device called the Win-D-Fender (www.Win-D-Fender.com), designed as a wind guard, does cut back on the outward (and inward) flow of air at the head-joint (We are not endorsing this device as something to use, but we are describing how it works).  Studies suggest that air flow through key holes is not very significant compared with the blown air stream.  Some flutists attach a loose sock over the end of the flute, but it is not known how effective this is, because very little air is forced through the flute when playing (unless you perform a “jet whistle”).

The latest recommendations on social distancing for flute playing are in the range of 1.5 – 2.0 meters, which includes the most commonly heard “6 feet.”  Recommended total time for wind instrument rehearsals or performances is 30 minutes, and then the air in that space should be thoroughly cleaned or ventilated.

The National Flute Association has also shared information available at the following link: https://www.nfaonline.org/community/the-nfa-blog/community-blog/nfa-community-blog/2020/06/17/covid-19-risk-assessment-for-flutists

-Information compiled by the Board of Directors of The Flute Society of Washington

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