Iron Post Hosts Covid-Safe Livestream Performance

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Giant steps are being taken by the University of Illinois to develop standards for Covid-safe indoor performance venues. 

A collaboration of University of Illinois Music and Engineering faculty are holding a special Covid-Safe Jazz performance at The Iron Post in Urbana on Tuesday, October 20. The closed event (sorry), restricted to a select group of Covid-negative University of Illinois students, staff and faculty, features two UI Jazz ensembles and a student audience. Professor Barrington Coleman’s vocal group and Professor Tito Carrillo’s instrumental group will be performing while UI engineers monitor air quality, airborne particulates, and microbe concentrations in the background. 

Paul Wirth, The Iron Post proprietor, has opened his business to the UI collaborators for the event. Like many restaurant and bar owners throughout the US, he is worried about the safety of his staff and customers as cold weather eliminates outdoor events. Current Covid re-opening guidelines are “qualitative”, and standard building ventilation practices are inadequate for controlling the spread of Covid-19. This effort quantifies measures for setting minimum levels of fresh air ventilation and filtration based on occupancy and occupant activities. 

The Iron Post has a strong relationship with the University of Illinois Jazz Performance program. UI Faculty and Students frequently perform at “The Post”, keeping their skills honed while delighting local audiences. Professor Charles (Chip) McNeill, Chair of the UI Jazz Performance program, and his faculty colleagues responded enthusiastically when asked to participate in the study. Professor 

McNeill says “….thank you for including us in this valuable research that could really help musicians everywhere and particularly in our community and help Paul at the Post to possibly stay open through the Winter months!” 

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is uniquely positioned for safely studying performance venues and other indoor occupant situations due to its extensive, Covid-19 test program. UI campus leadership and faculty moved to develop a test laboratory and novel test protocol in the early spring. All UI undergraduate students test twice per week, while other UI personnel test once per week. Smart phone software updates student and staff test status for facility access. UI Jazz performers and audience are required to have UI facility access privileges before entering The Post for the event, and “Restore Illinois” guidelines for restaurants and bars are followed. 

Professor TH (Helen) Nugyen, Professor Vishal Verma and their graduate students from the UI Civil and Environmental Engineering Department are conducting the data collection activities. Nugyen and Verma have developed a novel approach that correlates carbon dioxide, airborne droplets, and airborne microbe (non-Covid) concentrations to determine ventilation and filtration impacts on SARs-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease. 

UI Emeritus Mechanical Engineering Professor Ty Newell, who has a background in ventilation systems and indoor air quality, is helping coordinate event activities. Newell says, “We’re all tired of being locked up, but unfortunately, we are still at the beginning of this slow-moving disaster. The University of Illinois is proof that we can safely re-open while controlling this disease. Professors Nugyen’s and Verma’s research, coupled with effective testing, provides the information we need to do that.” 

The goal is simple: affordable and quantifiable guidelines for business owners to follow for keeping their staff and customers safe. 

The goal of the event activity is collection of indoor air quality in a typical music performance venue. The Iron Post is a frequent site and performance venue for UI Faculty and Student music performances.

The University of Illinois is in a unique position with its novel Covid-19 testing program for ensuring a safe, indoor performance environment. The data collected will help our understanding of how to manage indoor environments that minimize the potential of disease transmission in restaurant/bar environments with performances.

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