Medical professionals have been hopeful that, like the flu, the coronavirus would begin to diminish with warmer weather. Now a prestigious scientific panel has told the White House that COVID-19 isn’t likely to go away based on rising seasonal temperatures.
Very early on in the coronavirus outbreak, when it was still mostly relegated to China and had not yet been declared a pandemic, medical experts had little data to go on. Add to that, the data received from China and the World Health Organization (WHO) may not have been accurate.
In these beginning stages, the experts who study viruses believed that COVID-19 might behave like the flu, which tends to subside during the warmer months.
During every flu season, infections tend to drop off starting around May. And being that coronavirus is a respiratory virus, as is influenza, medical professionals were hopeful they would see the same pattern of seasonal behavior in COVID-19.
Influenza thrives in cold and dry conditions, such as occur during winter for the majority of the northern hemisphere. Influenza droplets from people coughing can stay in the air longer.
But once the air becomes warmer and more humid, the tiny droplets containing the virus pick up more moisture from the air, making them too heavy to remain airborne and fall to the ground.
Members of the National Academy of Sciences committee sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday informing the federal government’s coronavirus task force advising the panel that the data is mixed on whether coronavirus spreads as easily in warm weather as it does during the colder months.
“There is some evidence to suggest that [coronavirus] may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity,” the letter read. “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.”
The letter went on to cite an example of a study in China which demonstrated that even under maximum temperatures and humidity conditions, the virus still spread “exponentially.” During such conditions, on average, every infected person spread it to merely two other people.
Contrasting the study quoted in the letter to the White House, research by the Los Alamos National Laboratory of the outbreak in China reached a different conclusion. This one that showed the virus was much more highly contagious than estimated. According to this study, it found that person, on average, transmitted the infection to 5.7 others.
These latest findings contrast a study by the World Health Organization of transmission rates between 2 to 2.5 from infected persons. By comparison, each person sick with influenza transmits the infection to 1.3 other people.
The take away from these studies show that it’s going to remain difficult to get back to normal. The latest figures show that social distancing is working in reducing the number of coronavirus cases.
However, what is threatening life every bit as much as the infection is the shutdown of businesses. People need to go back to work in order to have an income.
Companies are looking for business payroll solutions to avoid having to lay off or furlough employees. Some members of Congress are now calling for the federal government to consider paying the salaries of all US employees. This will allow a steady income for Americans so that they can afford food and shelter.