Summer is just around the corner, and some are hoping that the warmer weather will put an end to the coronavirus outbreak. Public health experts, however, caution that this may not be the case.
“The science there is not as clear as it needs to be” when it comes to the weather’s impact on the speed of the virus’s spread, says Aaron Bernstein, M.D., interim director of C-CHANGE (Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And I don’t think it can be because, although we have other coronaviruses to draw inference from, we don’t have experience with this coronavirus.”
If this coronavirus acts like other coronaviruses (remember that there are several coronaviruses that can infect humans and cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses, such as the common cold), warmer temperatures and more humid weather may slow it down, Bernstein says.
These viruses and others, including the bug that causes the flu, tend to spread more during cold-weather months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, “that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months,” the CDC says.
“There’s some research to suggest that even at slower rates, [the novel coronavirus] is still going to be capable of exponential transmission” during summer’s warm months, explains Bernstein, pointing to places with warm-weather climates such as Singapore, India and Louisiana as examples. These areas have seen large outbreaks of infections despite their hot temperatures.
Another thing to consider? Hot weather increases the risk for hospitalization and death, especially among older adults, whose bodies have a harder time adjusting to temperature changes. This could add stress to hospitals and health care systems around the country that are already burdened with coronavirus outbreaks.