An electron microscope image of the new strain of coronavirus. Courtesy of NIAID-RML

By Dr. Abisola Olulade

Across the United States, temperatures are dropping while COVID-19 cases are rising. According to Johns Hopkins University, all 50 states are seeing growing numbers and the country recorded more than 100,000 cases per day in November. Hospitalizations and deaths in many cities are also mounting.

The question is: Does the cold weather cause the increase in infections, or is our response to the chill the real culprit?

According to research from the University of Texas at Austin, temperature and humidity do not significantly affect how the coronavirus spreads. However, what does have an effect is how we behave in reaction to the weather.

In a comparison of factors that led to infection, weather contributed less than 3% to the outcome, while taking trips contributed 34%, and time away from home contributed 26%. The population and density of communities also played significant roles.

It’s obvious that temperature changes have not stopped the spread of the virus, which is why we need to continue to take distancing, hand-washing and mask wearing very seriously and not let our cold-weather behaviors lead to more cases.

Why Winter Weather Will Lead to Increased infections

Abisoa Olulade

When it’s colder, people spend more time indoors — even in San Diego, where temperatures are far milder than other areas of the country. And the holidays can lead to additional people traveling. These combined dynamics cause greater congregation and increased spread of the virus.

If we let down our guard due to pandemic fatigue or a desire to spend time with loved ones in person, or fail to take prevention measures seriously, the virus will continue to spread. We will also see increased case counts along with what is no longer a hypothetical in other states: an overwhelmed health care system.

What We Can Do to Stop the Spread

Acknowledging that small household gatherings have become an important contributor to rising COVID-19 infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people to celebrate the holidays virtually or only with members of their own household to lower the risk for spreading the disease. And California recently issued a travel advisory urging against nonessential, out-of-state travel and asking visitors entering the state or returning home from travel to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the virus.

It’s important to remember that the virus doesn’t care whether or not we’re tired of it. It’s still here and will continue to run rampant through our community if we let it. This is just one holiday season and there’s a lot of hope that by next year we will have vaccines and even better treatments, so let’s stay strong and continue our efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 Dr. Abisola Olulade is a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

Show comments