WASHINGTON -- Misconceptions about the way climate and weather impact exposure and transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, create false confidence and have adversely shaped risk perceptions, say a team of Georgetown University researchers.
"Future scientific work on this politically-fraught topic needs a more careful approach," write the scientists in a "Comment" published today in Nature Communications.
The authors include global change biologist Colin J. Carlson, PhD, an assistant professor at Georgetown's Center for Global Health Science and Security; senior author Sadie Ryan, PhD, a medical geographer at the University of Florida; Georgetown disease ecologist Shweta Bansal, PhD; and Ana C. R. Gomez, a graduate student at UCLA.
The research team says current messaging on social media and elsewhere "obscures key nuances" of the science around COVID-19 and seasonality.
"Weather probably influences COVID-19 transmission, but not at a scale sufficient to outweigh the effects of lockdowns or re-openings in populations," the authors write.
The authors strongly discourage policy be tailored to current understandings of the COVID-climate link, and suggest a few key points:
- 1. No human-settled area in the world is protected from COVID-19 transmission by virtue of weather, at any point in the year.
2. Many scientists expect COVID-19 to become seasonal in the long term, conditional on a significant level of immunity, but that condition may be unmet in some regions, depending on the success of outbreak containment.
3. All pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions are currently believed to have a stronger impact on transmission over space and time than any environmental driver.
"With current scientific data, COVID-19 interventions cannot currently be planned around seasonality," the authors conclude.
The authors report having no personal financial interests related to the study.
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As a top academic health and science center, Georgetown University Medical Center provides, in a synergistic fashion, excellence in education -- training physicians, nurses and other health care professionals, as well as biomedical scientists -- and cutting-edge interdisciplinary research collaboration, enhancing our basic science and translational biomedical research capacity in order to improve human health. Patient care and clinical research is conducted with our clinical partner, MedStar Health. GUMC's mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on social justice and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." GUMC comprises the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing & Health Studies, Biomedical Graduate Education, and Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Designated by the Carnegie Foundation as a "very high research activity university," Georgetown is home to a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health, and a Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. Connect with GUMC on Facebook (Facebook.com/GUMCUpdate) and on Twitter (@gumedcenter).