Despite Trump’s Claims, Warm Weather Unlikely To “Miraculously Cure” Global Coronavirus

In recent days at political rallies and White House events, President Trump has repeatedly made the speculative claim that the coronavirus will go away “miraculously” in “April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.”  But according to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control, though it might diminish “a bit,” it is unclear what will happen this spring in the U.S. since the disease has not been through a full year so doctors don’t yet know whether it is “seasonal.” Moreover, even if it diminishes with warm weather in the Northern Hemisphere, it will get worse in the Southern Hemisphere then because of the colder weather there.

Why This Matters:  President Trump is again playing politics with science and the weather — bending the facts to fit his desired narrative that both the U.S. and China having it all under control when it comes to controlling the spread of the virus and that it is safe to make drastic cuts to government research on diseases like this one.  And while Presidents should not fuel public alarm, they also need to be careful not to minimize the risks to the public much less promise a “miracle cure.”  Public health officials absolutely need to plan for the worst — that the outbreak drags on regardless of the weather. And now, because the President’s claims strain credulity they have become fodder for politics.  On Friday, Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg aired an ad on Twitter that ridiculed the President’s statements on the virus — further politicizing the issue.  Like with the weather maps, once the President starts to use events like this for his own political purposes, our collective faith in government diminishes — to our detriment.

Why Are Some Viruses Seasonal?

Scientists do not really know why some viruses spread more rapidly in colder weather.  According to Factcheck.org, “Several studies have found that absolute humidity, in particular, may be especially important in driving some of these effects. Absolute humidity, Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch explained, is essentially the amount of moisture in the air. ‘This is always low when it’s cold because cold air can’t hold much water or it will start to rain,’ he said in an email” to the organization.  They also surmise that other seasonal factors could include the school calendar or indoor crowding, as well as changes in a person’s immune system.

The best case possible, according to one expert, is that “[b]oth containment efforts and a change in weather could help slow the outbreak.”   However, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases,  in a recent telebriefing cautioned, “I would caution overinterpreting” the idea that warmer weather would “weaken” the virus. Noting that the agency has had less than six weeks of experience with the outbreak, she said, “I’m happy to hope that it goes down as the weather warms up, but I think it’s premature to assume that. And we’re certainly not using that to sit back and expect it to go away.”

To Go Deeper: Listen to this NPR story or listen to the CDC briefing on the subject.

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