“Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” President Trump said in February, in the very early days of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
It’s April now, and needless to say, that hasn’t happened. But ever since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s been one bit of optimism that’s been raised from time to time, that perhaps the COVID-19 virus will “burn off,” or go away, in the summer. After all, that’s what usually happens with flu, and a lot of other viruses—they tend to go away when temperatures climb. So, might the coronavirus problem be solved, at least in part, by warmer weather?
While the coronavirus has not yet gone through a summer, experts are skeptical that the weather will prove the solution to the pandemic.
“It is not yet known whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19,” the CDC’s website says, in its frequently asked questions section. “Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months.”
The National Academy of Sciences has made a similar report to the White House.
Scientists around the world have been looking at that question. And while there has been some evidence that the virus spreads more slowly in warmer temperatures, it’s also spread all around the world already, regardless of climates. Some of the hotspot areas of the United States, including Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, are in the parts of the country with the warmest weather.
This is also the case with Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, warm-weather countries with lower-than-average rates of infection from coronavirus.
Of course, there’s also the concern that even if warm weather slowed transmission of coronavirus in the summer, it could then come roaring back in the fall once temperatures fall again.
The Wall Street Journal looked at the question earlier this week. It cited research by scientists at the University of Hong Kong, who found that the virus has “deteriorated over time when stored at 72 degrees Fahrenheit.” This is seen as an indication that the coronavirus might not last on hot surfaces once temperatures get warmer.
A Virginia Tech professor named Linsey Marr told the Journal that “I think we will see slightly less transmission during the warmer months, but not enough less to make a big difference,” adding that people will still spend time indoors with air conditioning, even in the summer.
Back in February, Dr. Brian Labus, an UNLV epidemiologist who is advising Nevada’s governor, noted that “drier air can also dry out the nasal passages and make it easier for the virus to gain entry to the body.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons.