Experts warn summer heat may not slow spread of coronavirus

Dr. Felipe Lobelo said we are in a new normal and the virus isn't going away this summer, but there will be a lot of studying of how warmer temperatures affect it.

As the coronavirus outbreak has continued to unfold, health experts were initially hopeful that Georgia's summer heat would help slow the spread of the virus. However, on Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health director said that may not be the case.

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Dr. Francis Collins wrote in a blog post Tuesday that, "climate only would become an important seasonal factor in controlling COVID-19 once a large proportion of people within a given community are immune or resistant to infection."

“We’ll obviously have to wait a few months to get the data. But for now, many researchers have their doubts that the COVID-19 pandemic will enter a needed summertime lull,” Collins wrote. “Among them are some experts on infectious disease transmission and climate modeling, who ran a series of sophisticated computer simulations of how the virus will likely spread over the coming months.”

The research team found that because of the lack of immunity to the virus, it will likely continue to spread rapidly through the summer and into the fall.

“Those earlier studies focused on well-known human infectious diseases. Less clear is how seasonal variations in the weather might modulate the spread of a new virus that the vast majority of people and their immune systems have yet to encounter,” he said.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Collins notes that in the long term, as immunity develops, the coronavirus will likely fall into a more predictable seasonal pattern that is more common among other coronaviruses.

He wrote that before that can happen. NIH is working with its partners and researchers to “make sure that safe, effective treatments and vaccines will be available to help prevent the tragic, heavy loss of life that we’re seeing now.”

Collins also said that maintaining physical distance and wearing masks remain the best way to slow the spread into the summer.

“Of course, climate is just one key factor to consider in evaluating the course of this disease,” he wrote. “And, there is a glimmer of hope in one of the group’s models. The researchers incorporated the effects of control measures, such as physical distancing, with climate. It appears from this model that such measures, in combination with warm temperatures, actually might combine well to help slow the spread of this devastating virus.”

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