What is karaoke like now? Navigating L.A.’s reopening with ‘Good Trouble’s’ Sherry Cola

VIDEO | 05:09
What’s it like to go back to karaoke? Navigating L.A.’s reopening with ‘Good Trouble’s’ Sherry Cola

Singing in groups was identified early in the pandemic as a risky activity. But now that vaccinations are rising, what is it like to go to karaoke in Koreatown with a group of friends?


Early in the pandemic, a choir practice in Washington turned deadly when 45 out of 60 singers were infected, despite using hand sanitizer and staying distanced.

Emily Oster, a Brown University economist who has been studying COVID-19 data, said that the story taught us lessons about the airborne spread of the virus.

To better understand what karaoke is like now, we took actress and comedian Sherry Cola (“Good Trouble”) and her friends to The Venue before California’s regulations were relaxed June 15. The Venue is a restaurant in Koreatown with 13 private karaoke rooms. We also asked experts about any risks associated with karaoke.


“When you’re yelling, singing or forcibly expelling air, your droplet particles can move farther,” said Dr. Catherine Le, an infectious disease physician who heads Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s COVID-19 Recovery Program and wrote the children’s book “Coronavirus Is Boo Boo.”

“Singing is higher risk than a buffet,” Oster said, “but again, it depends on your environment, and the chances of someone in Los Angeles coming into a karaoke bar with COVID is low.”

COVID-19 rates in L.A. are close to where they were in February 2020 and vaccination rates are high.

Numbers, variants and vaccines

Private karaoke, which is closer to the risk of having an indoor dinner with friends you know and trust, is safer than a karaoke bar, where you sing onstage and are sharing space with strangers whose vaccination statuses you don’t know.

But even at a karaoke bar, vaccinated people don’t need to worry about getting infected by people who were previously singing on stage.

Though Le and Oster don’t believe the microphone is a huge risk for COVID, they generally recommended wiping down microphones if you don’t know the person who used it before you.

“It’s almost like having a drink,” Le said. “It’s right up there, right against your mouth.”


“I’m having a lot of non-COVID feelings,” Oster said. “Always wipe the microphone, for reasons that are not about coronavirus.”

We consulted experts before going to Koreatown with actress and comedian Sherry Cola of “Good Trouble.” We learned about how to make decisions and mitigate risk of coronavirus and other germs while going to a spa, a Korean barbecue restaurant and karaoke with friends.

June 25, 2021

The Venue provides foam covers for its microphones, said Sarah Bennet, general manager of the restaurant. Other precautions adopted include full-body temperature checks, a contactless menu, extra sanitizing procedures in between guests and a hand sanitizer bottle for each room.

Masks are still required for customers who are not fully vaccinated, and vaccination cards are required for parties of more than 30 guests, Bennett said.

Things to keep in mind in a reopened California

  • More data are needed about how effective the vaccine is in people who have compromised immune systems, said Catherine Le, a Cedars-Sinai infectious disease physician. That’s a broad spectrum of people, including those getting chemotherapy and those who have received transplants. They may benefit from an extra COVID-19 vaccine. Consult your doctor to assess your individual risks.

  • The Delta variant is more transmissible for unvaccinated people and may also be associated with increased disease severity. So far, the data show that vaccinated people are well protected.

  • Le said about 10% of people who contract the coronavirus get “long COVID.” She sees many young people in her work at Cedars-Sinai’s COVID-19 Recovery Program who have such persistent and debilitating symptoms that they’ve had to take time off work or drop out of school.