As summer inches closer, it has left many wondering how the higher temperatures will affect the novel coronavirus.
After all, if the coronavirus behaves like the seasonal flu, warmer temperatures could weaken the virus and allow normal life to resume, right?
Unfortunately, experts don’t think that will be the case.
A new working paper has been tracking how weather and other environmental conditions, such as pollution, affect the transmission of COVID-19 around the world.
In short, the forecast from researchers looks grim. Warm weather alone will not effectively control the spread of the virus in the United States nor abroad.
Researchers assembled and analyzed data from nearly 4,000 global locations. They also developed interactive figures that make it easy to understand their evidence-based projections. Using 2019-2020 weather data for each location, the maps and graphs show the predicted impact of local weather on COVID-19 transmission from May 2020 through April 2021.
The study was conducted by researchers at six academic institutions. Those researchers found that while warm weather could play a small role in slowing the virus in a few places for a short amount of time, it’s not going to be enough.
“At the end of the day, this whole effect from weather and pollution is still pretty minor,” said Mohammad Jalali, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Jalali is also one of the study’s authors.
He added, “No government should rely on the effect of the weather.”
Some of the hottest cities in the US could see some reprieve. In places like Phoenix, AZ, high temperatures could drive down the rate of infections by over 40 percent.
Similarly, hotter months in parts of India and Pakistan could also make the rate of infections drop by half.
However, this isn’t the same across the board. Most places won’t see such a drastic reduction in infections.
That means that without social distancing and other interventions, the novel coronavirus will continue to spread rapidly — even through the summer. It looks like stay-at-home orders and face masks will still be necessary throughout the heat.
Of course, like all weather forecasts, it’s just that: a forecast. There is still uncertainty about the results, and it’s possible that other researchers could come up with different projections.
However, all evidence currently available suggests that weather does not play enough of a role in coronavirus transmission to rely on it alone.
You can see the projection tools on the Harvard University website.