For Immediate Release
Phone: 980-432-1800Website: www.rowancountync.gov/covid-19Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rowan County Case Information: https://bit.ly/rowan-covid19-hub
As winter will soon bring shorter days and lower temperatures to the United States, there is a chance we could see more COVID-19 cases. But experts say it is still too early to know exactly how seasons will affect the virus. They emphasize that human behaviors are still the most important driver of the pandemic.
“The most important factor at the moment is ... the control measures that we have in place. Things such as social distancing and mask-wearing — those are really key to lowering transmission of disease at this point,” said Rachel Baker, infectious disease researcher at Princeton University.
COVID and Climate
Many diseases, such as the flu, are seasonal, with cases spiking when the weather is cool and dry. There are three main reasons why scientists think the coronavirus could be affected by climate.
“The virus doesn’t like certain seasons, or our bodies don’t like certain seasons. Or it’s just that we’re putting more of our bodies together in closed spaces,” said Ben Zaitchik, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.
As we now know, COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets produced when people breathe, talk, sneeze or cough. The virus survives better in cold and dry conditions, typical of winter. Low humidity also promotes evaporation of virus droplets into tiny aerosol particles that linger in the air, increasing the risk of airborne transmission in winter. Cold weather may further increase the spread of disease by driving us indoors.
“The longer that household contacts are together, the more likely they are to transmit [the virus],” said John Lynch, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington. “When we think about the places where we’re seeing transmissions occur it’s mostly within the home. It’s mostly constrained workplaces where people don’t have the ability to separate from each other.”
Winter weather can also hinder the body’s ability to fend off viral infections. A lack of sunshine has also been noted to deplete vitamin D levels and weaken the immune system. Cold, dry winter air also damages the cells in our airways that clear away virus particles. If your body can’t get rid of these virus particles, it might take fewer virus particles to make you sick, or the disease might be more severe, Iwasaki said. It is highly recommended that people use humidifiers to moisten the air of homes and offices, in addition to wearing masks. Studies have also shown that face masks have the ability to warm the inside of the nose and moistens the respiratory tract; and as a result of this, it boosts the respiratory tract’s ability to better fight off an infection.
Slowing the Spread
Experts emphasize that the course of the pandemic is still largely in our hands.
“What we know works is social distancing, wearing masks or face coverings, and practicing good hand hygiene. If we stick with those things, we’re going to have really good success with interrupting transmission,” said the University of Washington’s Lynch.
Jeanne Marrazzo, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, agrees that we have the tools to deal with the potential of more cases in winter. “As we face the coming months, I really, really hope we can pull together to recognize that we can change the trajectory of this virus if we work all together,” she said.
Download Media Release COVID-19 - October 15, 2020 (PDF)