A panel convened by the National Academies of Sciences reported to the White House on Tuesday that the novel coronavirus is unlikely to wane substantially with the arrival of summer, though there are many uncertainties remaining.
These findings are in line with previous studies offering hypotheses regarding how the virus may behave in warmer and more humid conditions and is an attempt to help distill the evidence for and against reduced virus transmissibility during warm weather.
The report, known as a “rapid expert consultation,” is addressed to Kelvin Droegemeier, the head of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and acting director of the National Science Foundation.
The report, published by about a dozen members of the Academies’ Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats, finds laboratory studies of how the coronavirus varies in its transmissibility based on temperature and humidity are not yet conclusive, but more evidence will be available in the coming weeks.
It also finds shortcomings in the studies published so far that trace the spread of the coronavirus and connect the pattern of spread to temperature and humidity, stating they “should be interpreted with caution.” For example, one such study published in March by MIT researchers found 90 percent of the coronavirus transmissions so far have occurred within a specific temperature (37 to 63 degrees) and absolute humidity range. For areas outside this zone, the virus is still spreading, but more slowly.
The NAS report states: “There is some evidence to suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity; however, given the lack of host immunity globally, this reduction in transmission efficiency may not lead to a significant reduction in disease spread” without mitigation measures, such as social distancing.
The report notes that other newly emerged coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, “have not demonstrated any evidence of seasonality following their emergence.”