This Is Why Coronavirus Is Skyrocketing in the South, Harvard Doctor Says

A saving grace of warmer weather may be playing a factor in the outbreaks, according to experts.

As scientists begin to understand more about COVID-19, it's become clear that indoor spaces put people at higher risk for contracting the virus—especially when they're poorly ventilated. But there's also another known factor that may increase the risk of spreading the disease, and could explain why certain parts of the country have seen surges in COVID-19 numbers. According to a report in The Harvard Gazette, medical experts think that air conditioning could be part of the reason why there have been COVID-19 spikes in the South.

Experts believe that the rising temperatures in June have sent more people flocking toward air-conditioned indoor spaces. "As people go indoors in hot weather and the rebreathed air fraction goes up, the risk of infection is quite dramatic," Edward Nardell, MD, professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Harvard Gazette.

woman turning on the air conditioning

Nardell has found that there's a direct correlation between outbreak areas and hotter weather, saying that "the states that, in June, are already using a lot of air conditioning because of high temperatures are also the places where there [have] been greater increases in the spread of COVID-19, suggesting more time indoors as temperatures rise." He also remarked that ironically, the same risk factor is created during the colder months when people again flee indoors to stay warm.

Nardell cites other studies about air conditioning potentially spreading COVID-19, including a restaurant in Wuhan, China, and an apartment building in Hong Kong. The throngs of bar patrons in southern states documented on social media may have been subjected to the same recirculated air conditions over the past month, increasing their likelihood of coronavirus exposure.

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"Restaurants [and bars] are one of the most dangerous places [because they] use mixing ventilation, in which air conditioning systems try to stir room air as much as possible," Qingyan Chen, PhD, a Purdue University professor researching virus transmission through ventilation, previously told Best Life. "Thus, droplets in restaurants would be uniformly distributed. That is not a great scenario." And for another activity to avoid right now, check out: Most COVID-19 Patients Did This One Thing Before Getting Sick, Study Finds.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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