Warm weather may have no impact on COVID-19

This is part of our Coronavirus Update series in which Harvard specialists in epidemiology, infectious disease, economics, politics, and other disciplines offer insights into what the latest developments in the COVID-19 outbreak may bring.

Harvard researchers examining the common cold for hints about how the COVID-19 virus might behave said that summer may not save us and that repeated periods of social distancing may be needed to keep serious cases from overwhelming the hospital system.

The findings, published online in the journal Science on Tuesday, were produced by scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Departments of Epidemiology and of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

Researchers led by postdoctoral fellow Stephen Kissler and doctoral student Christine Tedijanto used close genetic cousins of SARS-CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19 to model how it might behave in the coming months.

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The viruses HCoV-OC43 and HCoV-HKU1 circulate regularly and cause the common cold. Researchers used them to develop a model that examined potential seasonality, the impact of social-distancing strategies, and the virus’ future role in causing illness.

The scenarios, researchers said, did not look at how outcomes could be affected if either a vaccine or a treatment is developed neither of which appears imminent.

Harvard Gazette

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