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A top immunologist based in Nashville, Tenn., warned this week that it is unlikely that summer heat will stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, urging the public to instead continue to heed officials’ advice on best health practices as the epidemic continues in the United States.
“Some of us are counting on the warm, humid Nashville summer to control the virus — please keep in mind that while the virus was being transmitted here in our winter, other parts of the world it’s actually summer, and temperatures are hot and conditions are humid, and the virus is doing just fine,” said Meharry Medical College President and CEO Dr. James Hildreth, an immunologist, during Nashville Mayor John Cooper's daily COVID-19 update on Tuesday.
“So by all means, it seems to me that we should not count on the summer controlling the virus for us,” he added.
When the novel virus first gained a footing in the U.S., some of the country’s top scientists and researchers questioned if the coronavirus would die out as the weather warmed.
There are at least four pre-existing coronaviruses that are seasonal — but why exactly remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, as is the case for many infectious diseases. For instance, the 2002-2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which claimed nearly 800 lives at the time, ended in the summer. But a 2004 report on the seasonality of SARS did not establish a clear reason for why that was.
“Our understanding of the forces driving seasonal disappearance and recurrence of infectious diseases remains fragmentary, thus limiting any predictions about whether, or when, SARS will recur,” the authors wrote at the time. “It is true that most established respiratory pathogens of human beings recur in wintertime, but a new appreciation for the high burden of disease in tropical areas reinforces questions about explanations resting solely on cold air or low humidity.”
Hildreth’s comments on Tuesday echoed these findings, as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning earlier this month that “one should not assume” the virus will go away with warmer weather.
In other "common, more benign coronaviruses, [it] doesn't like warm, moist weather as much as it likes cold, dry weather,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
But, he cautioned: “One should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather," Fauci said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing. If we get some help from the weather, so be it, fine. But I don’t think we need to assume that.”
Hildreth also said Tuesday that the virus will likely continue to spread “until we have enough immunity — as a population, as a human species, actually — to the coronavirus. The likelihood of outbreaks is [still] high, and without the means to test and trace and quarantine, we are going to be in trouble if outbreaks do occur.”
Hildreth also echoed Fauci when saying that a “second wave” of the coronavirus will likely hit the U.S. this fall, coinciding with flu season and creating the possibility that both viruses could “overwhelm our health care system.”
“It’s going to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future until a vaccine is available,” he continued.
And regardless if businesses reopen, “we should take the personal responsibility of protecting ourselves from the virus, and by doing that, we can protect the whole community,” he added.
Fox News's Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.