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September 28, 2020

Wow, silence could be the Holy Grail for stopping the spread of coronavirus in its tracks. Literally. It so happens that Japan and Sweden have a handle on Covid-19 with low numbers of cases. Known generally as quieter groups of people, the Japanese and the Swedes as cultures, put a cap on shouting or speaking loudly – and it’s paying off during the pandemic.

I read a fascinating article in The Atlantic this morning in which Professor Jose Jimenez, an expert in disease transmission at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that “Every route of viral transmission would go down if we talked less, or talked less loudly, in public space…This is a very clear fact. It’s not controversial.”

For example, in Japan, whose inhabitants are already accustomed to wearing masks, there’s an unofficial rule for commuters on crowded subway trains to speak softly.

Sweden, without national lockdowns, has managed to flatten the curve.

And in Sweden, moderation is part of everyday life, including speaking to one another. So that explains our beloved Swedish neighbors who were always so low-key and calm. In the years we knew them, they never lost their cool and they never raised their voices even during what I would call stressful moments. Like the night we had them over for their farewell dinner before their permanent return to Sweden the next day. They were still in the middle of packing a container with everything to be shipped to Sweden. I asked them how they and their two young children would be getting to the airport.

“Hmmm,” Henrik said calm as a clam. I don’t believe I made a reservation with the airport shuttle. And his wife, Linda, didn’t flinch. I started to panic for them. He nonchalantly picked up his cell phone, went into the shuttle’s app, and booked a reservation online. Done. Let’s just say that I would have been a bit more animated.

The moral here is -- by not speaking loudly or with excitement, viral particles exiting from the lungs won’t transmit as far through the air in the form of droplets or aerosols. Aerosols float in the air longer than droplets.

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

Sadly, we’ll never see that happen. Then the least we can do is, no pun intended, spread the word about turning down the volume when we speak.

Imagine that. No shouting. No loud voices. No tempers. No tantrums. In more ways than one, this could change the world.

Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives

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