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Summer warmup won’t halt coronavirus, research shows

The summer’s heat will not slow the spread of coronavirus, two separate studies recently concluded.  

A Princeton University study recently published in the journal Science concluded that, because most Americans still have not been exposed to the fast-moving virus, warm temperatures will not make more than a dent in the rate of infections. Princeton scientists pointed to the coronavirus’ rapid spread in places like Brazil, Ecuador and Australia as an indication that its current high rate of activity in the U.S. will continue.

Researchers in Canada reached a similar conclusion after conducting a detailed analysis of COVID-19 outbreaks worldwide. After controlling for a wide range of variables between countries, they were surprised to find that the epidemic’s spread “was not associated with geographic latitude, nor with temperature during the exposure period 14 days before [infection].”

Influenza outbreaks are usually associated with changes in climate, tending to occur during colder months. Reduced flu case numbers in hotter months are likely due to higher temperatures, higher humidity, or higher solar radiation.

However, experience with other viruses also suggests that without a vaccine or other control measures, COVID-19 will only become more seasonal after it has moved through the population and the supply of unexposed people is reduced, said Bryan Grenfell, co-author of the Canadian study.

“Previously circulating human coronaviruses – such as the common cold – depend strongly on seasonal factors, peaking in the winter outside of the tropics,” Grenfell said. “If, as seems likely, the novel coronavirus is similarly seasonal, we might expect it to settle down to become a winter virus as it becomes endemic in the population.”

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