As society begins to open up following quarantines, many people are wondering what’s next.
Will there be a surge of new COVID-19 cases? Now that people are returning to offices, restaurants and bars?
Will late spring and summer heat slow down the coronavirus spread? Similar to what occurs this time of year with seasonal flu?
Will summer activities look the same as in the past? Will people start to travel again? Including for vacations?
How Should We Reopen?
Of course, nobody knows for sure. Because this is still a new virus, there’s no playbook from which to work.
But plenty of people have voiced their opinions. Some medical personnel are calling for continued quarantines.
Other healthcare workers want careful and gradual reopenings. Some politicians recommend an immediate return to business as usual.
Only time will tell who’s right. In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the possible scenarios awaiting us this summer.
Weather Is a Factor
An assistant professor at Harvard Medical School has studied how weather affects the spread of viruses.
He told the Washington Post, “The best way to think about weather is as a secondary factor here.”
In other words, heat, humidity and sunshine should combine to slow down the spread. That’s what the current research is saying. But it won’t completely halt it.
And what if people don’t continue safeguards. Like frequent hand washing, facemasks and social distancing? Well, the weather might not help much.
Turn Up the Heat & Humidity
Many other folks are also studying the weather-virus connection. Including researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
So far, here’s what their findings indicate. Average temperatures above 77 degrees are linked with a transmission reduction.
Humidity can be a factor as well. Higher humidity causes respiratory droplets to fall quicker. This serves to reduce airborne transmission.
The biggest outbreaks from COVID-19 have occurred in countries with cooler weather. And the highest number of deaths
David Rubin is director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He said, “I believe weather is impacting it. It’s just not impacting it enough to completely eliminate transmission.”
Don’t Stand So Close to Me
Being outside is safer than in an enclosed space where the coronavirus might exist. But there’s a downside. People are expected to congregate at traditional summer “hotspots.” Such as pools, beaches and parks.
If they are in close proximity, the likelihood of the virus spreading rises. If they keep a six-foot distance from one another, they are safer. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC is encouraging the use of facemasks in these settings. But not while in water with others.
Kate Grusich is a CDC spokesperson. She said, “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas.
But the virus can be transmitted through close contact in any setting. Including outdoor pools and parks.
Facemasks Are the New Normal
Regardless of how hot and humid your summer might be, how will it look compared to previous summers?
For one thing, there will be a lot less physical contact. We won’t see many hugs or handshakes. Facemasks will be worn much more often than in the past.
Distancing will remain in force for most. Crowds will be rare. Already, a vast majority of outdoor events have been cancelled.
Some professional sports leagues plan to re-start or begin their seasons with games at empty stadiums.
Fear of Flying
Many people are still leery about traveling. That’s going to cut down on the number of summer vacations people take.
Since the beginning of March, the number of flyers in the U.S. has plummeted by more than 90 percent.
The thought of spending hours in airports, airplanes, taxis and rideshare vehicles has made people rethink their plans.
Some who were planning to fly to a vacation destination are opting for local spots they can reach via car. They’re looking at wide open spaces where they can stay together as a family. And at a distance from those they don’t know.
Are You a Flight Risk?
Dr. Henry Wu is a professor of infectious disease medicine at Emory University. Here’s what he advises for those considering a flight.
One, determine whether the trip is really necessary. Is it worth the risk of being in close quarters with people from around the world in airports and planes.
Two, conduct a self-assessment. Consider your age, health conditions and risk factors for severe complications.
Three, evaluate your tolerance for risk and inconvenience. Some destinations such as Hawaii require a 14-day quarantine period for arriving visitors.
Herd Immunity a Ways Off
The single biggest concern healthcare officials have? We have no natural immunity to the coronavirus.
That’s one of the reasons it has spread so quickly. Yes, hotter temperatures and higher humidity might temporarily stem the tide. But the virus could make a deadly comeback this fall and winter.
“We are nowhere near herd immunity.” So says Caroline Buckee, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“And when the physical distancing and interventions that have slowed transmission loosen, we expect to see a resurgence of cases and deaths.”
Summer will have a much different look this year. Please keep yourself safe.