Plexiglas & COVID-19: stop building walls!
This past year will certainly be remembered as a tough one for all of us, and one with a very different soundscape, especially in city centres, as many attentive ears such as those of our readers of Canadian Acoustics and members of the Canadian Acoustical Association can attest. Speaking of soundscape, I’d like to seize the opportunity offered by this editorial to share some of my concerns regarding the abusive use of plexiglass in our COVIDized lives. Let me be clear: I love plexiglass. I discovered it in my teenage years and immediately adopted it for all my DIY electronic kits to achieve that pro and polished look (having learned the “polish with talcum powder” trick to restore a scratched plexiglass panel!). That being said, I strongly feel that plexiglass is being wrongly used in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic as a physical barrier (grocery store check-out, post-office counter, etc.) to limit the propagation of aerosols and airborne viral loads. Clear acrylic panels (colloquially referred to as plexiglass) are dense and rigid, hence, they are extremely effective sound barriers. I’m probably not the only one to have witnessed the huge impairment created by these hanging or self-supporting plexiglass barriers that are making all verbal communication much harder, sometimes impossible (not to mention that a face mask already prevents all lip-reading co-modalities!). I’ve seen many young (hence probably normal-hearing) cashiers have a really difficult time understanding a patron’s question and ending up moving around or aside -one way or the other- the isolating panel... regardless of the risk of contamination! Not to mention how this sanitary crisis has had a great impact on the elderly who are not only affected because of their aging hearing, but by this extra layer of unnecessary sound isolation (added to the face mask, which already dampens speech frequencies!). And I say unnecessary because I mean just that: it is a bad design that is nonetheless widely adopted, maybe for its simplicity, but certainly not for its affordability. There must surely be ways to completely block airflow exchange without attenuating speech. A light rigid frame (wood, plastic, aluminum, etc.) supporting a plastic film (such as cellophane or for those who, like me, have the privilege of living in a cold climate and have heard of the heat shrinkable insulating film for indoor windows) would be just as efficient and most probably as easy to install and not more difficult to clean and sanitize, but with 2 greater advantages: a plastic film-based barrier would be completely transparent visually and... acoustically. Why such a setup isn’t more widely used is a question to which I would welcome your comments...
Getting back to our association, you will find the minutes of the Member’s General Assembly prepared by our Executive Secretary, Roberto Racca. In the minutes you will find, amongst other things, that the latest issues we faced with the CAA servers are being taken care of and that the latest deployment of the new version of the Open Journal System (OJS 3.2) is continuously improving and more intuitive for the editorial management of the Canadian Acoustics journal. This is definitely a task that keeps me busy, but I am proud to be carrying it through.
The results of the survey conducted in June 2019 are presented and these led, as you may remember from last year’s editorial, to several initiatives launched by the CAA Board of Directors to better serve its community and its members. Three initiatives have been prioritized: a) increase the visibility of our association and its presence in the various social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. with the help of our social editor; b) intensify efforts for young people and the new generation of acousticians; c) make our Canadian Acoustics journal more accessible to the community of practice, in particular by setting up a new section called "Practitioners' Corner" and including the publication of case studies and other practical developments in acoustics.
Due to the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, our annual Acoustics Week in Canada Conference was held entirely online. You will find a summary of the conference by the organizing team from Sherbrooke, led by Olivier Robin, who is now preparing the 2021 upcoming conference. It will be held -in a hybrid format- at the Delta Hotel in Sherbrooke (Québec), October 12-15, 2021.
Before you start reading this issue, please make sure that your contact information, listed in the directory of CAA members is up-to-date. This year again we have marked the missing fields with a "?" so that the missing information is clearly visible. As we don’t have the divinatory abilities of Santa Claus, when we don't have your mailing address, we can't send you your newspaper!
On this customary call to action, I wish you all a very happy holiday season.
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