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New Report: Summer Heat Won’t Slow COVID-19

May 11, 2020

The flu is seasonal, but experts say COVID-19 is not, so don’t expect it to take a break as the mercury rises this summer.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published a report May 8 in which University of Toronto researchers reported the virus and its spread is not fueled by temperature or latitude. This bolstered similar findings earlier from researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Even though high temperatures and humidity can moderately reduce the transmission rates of coronavirus, the pandemic is not likely to diminish solely due to summer weather,” stated a MIT press release.

MIT researchers analyzed virus transmission rates and weather statistics from December 2019 and April 22, 2020, in more than 3,700 locations. What they found was a drop in the risk of transmission of just 1.7 percent per 1 degree Fahrenheit when temperatures were above 77 degrees.

One factor that will continue to keep COVID-19 prevalent is the lack of immunity in the population. Too many people are still susceptible to the disease, so person-to-person spread is likely to continue until the nation contains enough people who have protective antibodies caused by infection to create what is called herd immunity, or until a vaccine is developed.

While heat and humidity will not prevent the spread of COVID-19, or even kill the virus as happens with seasonal flu come spring each year, what will continue to help are the measures of social distancing, isolation at home and good hand hygiene.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Chief Clinical Officer at Hartford HealthCare, said he expects a very gradual slowing of infection from the virus that continues through the summer.

“I anticipate we will have some COVID patients in the hospital for many, many months to come,” he told reporters May 11 during the system’s daily media briefing, noting that the reopening of society is sure to see some relaxing of the social distancing guidelines that have been effective in keeping the disease from infecting even more people.

“We need to decide how to leverage COVID and the non-COVID worlds together.”

Dr. Kumar also said being careful about reopening society means expanded testing for COVID and contact-tracing efforts so healthcare officials can determine who is infected and then with whom they have come into contact.

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