ORLANDO, Fla. — Temperatures have fluctuated between hot and cold recently in Florida, just about as frequently as the idea that warmth might bring an end to the coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

This week temperatures are expected to be between 75 and 82 degrees while balancing between mostly sunny and partly cloudy, according to the National Weather Service.

But will that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Florida?

The Sunshine State already has had two fatalities, more than a dozen confirmed cases, and many more cases awaiting test results, according to the Florida Department of Health.

On the global scale, the disease has spread to a total of nearly 110,000 cases, with 3,809 deaths, the World Health Organization reported Monday.

The idea, that humid and warm temperatures might be the bane of COVID-19 came to a head earlier in February when President Donald Trump addressed the nation’s governors during a business session.

“Now, the virus that we’re talking about having to do — you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April,” Trump said. He doubled down on the thought again during the same meeting.

“It looks like by April, you know in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away — I hope that’s true.”

The disease, COVID-19, is produced by a virus known as SARS-CoV-2.

While flu season does taper off toward the end of April, it’s unclear to health experts that the same will happen to COVID-19.

The reason why experts can’t say is because SARS-CoV-2 is too new of a virus to give an accurate guess, said Dr. John Lednicky a virologist of the University of Florida Department of Global Health, affiliated with the Emerging Pathogens Institute.

“There are researchers making predictions out there, I’d love to see what they’re basing it off of,” Lednicky said. “We have a unique situation. This is a brand new virus. No one has immunity to it, and that means the entire population could acquire an active infection.”

Lednicky has answered a lot of questions about coronavirus as of late, with his email inbox receiving about 1,400 emails daily. One question he’s received a lot of most recently is whether or not summer temperatures will bring an end to coronavirus spread.

Research suggests that heat, such as the room temperature of 74 degrees, doesn’t have much effect on airborne coronaviruses, which have been observed to survive in dry hot deserts, Lednicky said.

However, research shows Florida’s humidity, the great complaint of tourists and residents alike, may actually be the Sunshine State’s “protecting agent,” Lednicky said. Humidity can affect airborne viruses by impacting suspended, airborne viruses with water molecules and weighing them down to the ground, away from a person’s breathing path, Lednicky said.

But, Lednicky asks, what good is that in today’s modern world of air conditioning?

“People get hot outside, what do they do? They come inside where the air conditioning is making it cool and removing the humidity. The virus can stay adrift in the air long without getting condensed,” he said. “Yeah, when it gets warm there are less viruses outside. But what does that mean now? It means very little when you can jump into an air conditioned plane and be in another country in a few hours.”

Plus, with more people inside avoiding the humidity, the greater chance the virus has of infecting more people.

Another factor some have pointed to is how the amount of sunlight may make an environment more or less suitable to thrive in. Research does show that an abundance of ultraviolet light could break down a virus, according to a report by National Geographic.

“UV light breaks down nucleic acid. It almost sterilizes (surfaces). If you’re outside, it’s generally cleaner than inside simply because of that UV light,” said Ian Lipkin, director of the Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, to National Geographic.

The problem with these results, however, is the virus in these experiments is almost always highly purified without other conditions to observe — such as bodily mucus, which is known to protect viruses and increase their survival when exposed to ultraviolet light and environmental surfaces, Lednicky said.

Whether a new virus will be affected by seasonal changes of weather is unknown until it’s observed in those conditions.

While Lednicky may be holding his breath around someone coughing nearby, he isn’t doing so while waiting for summer temperatures to save the day.

———

©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

—————

PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): sun

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

6
3
5
6
6

Recommended for you