This isn’t the ray of sunshine we were hoping for.
As the weather heats up, many are hoping that sunshine alone will be enough to put the coronavirus in the deep freeze. But experts advise against betting on that outcome.
Department of Homeland Security lab studies triggered hope in the too-good-to-be-true theory. The agency found that the virus, in the form of droplets of saliva, thrives in dry, shady conditions but fades in direct sunlight.
Nevertheless, physicians and researchers say it’s too soon to start removing masks and buddying up on ballfields during the coming months.
“Tests are preliminary and we do not have good data,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with Allergy and Asthma Network in Manhattan, tells The Post. “I am concerned with New Yorkers getting a false sense of security that leads to them being out and about.”
This dovetails with another theory about coronavirus being less contagious in summer air — which also should be taken with a grain of salt, says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“If I am infected with coronavirus, my exhalation contains microscopic amounts of the virus [and] it will be surrounded by a tiny sphere of moisture,” Schaffner tells The Post. “When humidity is low, that moisture evaporates and [viral particles] hover in the air.”
But in the humidity of summer, he says, “that sphere of moisture [with other viruses] tends not to evaporate, which makes it heavier and gravity pulls it to earth,” putting us at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus.
Unfortunately, Shaffner acknowledges, this thinking derives largely from the behavior of other viruses. But the coronavirus is new to us, with behavior patterns that can only be speculated on.
Parikh points out that, despite lab tests and comparisons, the coronavirus still seems plenty spreadable in summery climates — just look at “very hot places, like Southern California and Florida,” she says. “Tom Hanks and his wife got sick in Australia during summer there.”
Another earlier study on heat and the coronavirus maintains that 90 percent of COVID-19 transmissions happen between 37.4 and 62.6 degrees, according to the findings published by MIT researchers last month. But it would be a mistake for people to believe that warm temperatures and sunlight alone will eradicate the disease, says Qasim Bukhari, lead researcher on the study.
“There are many other things besides the temperature that need to be taken into consideration,” Bukhari tells The Post. “The temperature effect alone cannot override isolation.”
The new findings — potentially-positive as they may be — are bad to bank on even in the face of quarantine fatigue, Schaffner and Parikh say.
“We have to combat being blithe about this virus and saying, Oh, what the hell?’” Schaffner says. “It will not disappear this summer, and the consequences of letting our guard down can be severe.”
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