Warm weather kills off COVID-19? Read here to know what scientists say
"The President (Donald Trump) walks on the sunny side of the street, and this takes us over to the shady side of the street. It makes us realize that springtime is likely not going to be a total solution," said Dr William Schaffner, an adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It doesn't look like coronavirus will go away once the weather warms up, a prestigious scientific panel has told the White House. This is in contrast to what President Donald Trump believes. He had earlier said that the virus will be gone by April, claiming that when temperatures rise, “the virus” will “miraculously” go away.
Unsurprisingly, he offered no scientific or medical explanation to support his theory. The President, a noted germaphobe, in February predicted that the whole thing will be wrapped up around Easter through divine intervention via the weather.
“The virus that we’re talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat, as the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April,” he said.
Referring to the United States that time, he had added: “We’re in great shape, though. We have 12 cases, 11 cases, and many of them are in good shape now.”
Now, coming back to the panel, members of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee in their letter to the White House said that data is mixed on whether coronavirus spreads as easily in warm weather as it does in cold weather, but that it might not matter much given that so few people in the world are immune to coronavirus.
So far, the novel coronavirus has killed more than 16,000 people and infected over 460,000 in the US.
"There is some evidence to suggest that (coronavirus) may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity; however, given the lack of host immunity globally, this reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread without the concomitant adoption of major public health interventions," according to the letter.
The letter noted, for example, that a study of the outbreak in China showed that even under maximum temperature and humidity conditions, the virus spread "exponentially," with every infected person spreading it to nearly two other people on average.
The scientists sent the letter to Kelvin Droegemeier at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Dr William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who is not a member of the NAS committee, said: "Although we can hope weather will make some contribution to the reduction in transmission, we can't rely on it alone. We have to continue to employ social distancing and other measures to reduce transmission."
Schaffner, an adviser to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that the NAS report gives "a more sobering assessment" of the situation than Trump did.
"The President walks on the sunny side of the street, and this takes us over to the shady side of the street," he said. "It makes us realize that springtime is likely not going to be a total solution."
The letter states that in the real world, the virus is still transmitting in countries with warm weather.
"Given that countries currently in 'summer' climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed," it said.
Dr Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist, said that while the coronaviruses that cause the common cold are seasonal, this new coronavirus is different because it originated in animals, not humans.
"It's unclear how this virus is going to act," said Offit, a professor of paediatrics at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.