Researchers highlight misconceptions about seasonal impacts of COVID-19

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Misconceptions about the way climate and weather impact exposure and transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), create false confidence and have adversely shaped risk perceptions, according to Georgetown University researchers in a new study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The research team said 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 said.

In the paper, the researchers strongly discourage policy be tailored to current understandings of the COVID-climate link, and suggest three 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 said.

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