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Does warming weather affect COVID-19’s spread?

SUNG YOON JO/iStock(NEW YORK) — President Donald Trump has declared that the COVID-19 virus will weaken in warmer temperatures, just like the flu.  But will it? 

Health officials are looking into how the virus behaves in hot and cold weather. Most notably, New York City remains the epicenter of the pandemic — which is considerably colder than the state of California, which saw the earliest cases of COVID-19.   

While the Big Apple does have a larger population than California’s most densely populated city — Los Angeles — the Golden State has seen far fewer cases: about a fifth of the number seen in the state of New York, despite the virus first arriving on the West Coast.

As for Florida, which is the home of several cities with similar demographics and densities as New York City, the state also reported a much lower infection rate: 14,000 cases, compared to NYC’s 179,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

As for a warmer state that reported its first case around the same time as New York, like Texas, the disparities are also visible.  Texas recorded nearly 39,000 cases versus New York’s 335,000. 

Public health expert Ali Mokdad, the chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, says temperature may play a role in slowing COVID-19’s transmission.

“For every increase in heat of 1 degree Celsius (the equivalent of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), we are seeing about 2% decline in transmission,” said Mokdad. “We find this relationship in our data and possibly it would be more when the weather warms up this month.”

Researchers are looking into how aggressive the virus reacts to outside temperature, as well as humidity.  They also aren’t ruling out tourism as a contributing factor of the virus’ spread, since New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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