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Time will tell.

The NFHS oversees more than just prep sports. More art-based activities like playing a musical instrument, singing and theatrical performing also are paid attention to by NFHS officials.

That’s especially true in an ongoing NFHS-approved aerosol study, which also is led by the College Band Directors National Association and involves research conducted at the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland. This is part of the NFHS’s ongoing efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 among its constituents.

During last month’s NFHS media webinar, organization executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff shared some findings from the first two rounds of this study, which involves youth and adult study subjects.

And the study is touching on athletics soon. Niehoff said an aerobic exertion trial is next on the researchers’ docket, with participants running on a treadmill. They’ll likely do so both wearing and not wearing a protective mask, if the study’s earlier rounds are any indication.

Those earlier rounds looked at individuals playing an instrument, speaking and singing both in a protective mask and without one.

Among the findings: Aerosol droplets, which the World Health Organization has said can carry COVID-19, are the study’s big talking point thus far.

“(Aerosol spread) can be likened to what maybe breath spread would look like,” Niehoff said. “Aerosol droplets tend to be denser, of greater mass and will tend to fall to the ground quicker.

“What we’ve noticed and learned is that when our normal respiration and the moisture there contacts a moist surface, we suspect, such as vocal chords or the reed of an instrument, that respiration takes on a finer quality so to speak and becomes an aerosol that we really want to explore.”

Niehoff said the study confirms protective masks and 6 feet of distance between individuals both are good ways to offset potential creation of or harm from these droplets. She also said participating in an activity outdoors instead of inside is beneficial.

The results of the study’s treadmill portion will be important to the IHSA and similar state groups. Planned upcoming winter sports like basketball and wrestling would see plenty of opportunities for respiration to come in contact with a moist surface, and athletes needing to be in close proximity to one another goes against some of the recommended best practices pertaining preventing COVID-19 spread.


Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).