A practical out-of-the-box solution to slow down COVID-19: Turn up the heat
3 days ago there was published a research that swayed me significantly towards the opinion that COVID-19 is spreading better in cold (but not too cold) climates. I believe that the odds for this are probably over 50%, and if it’s true there is a practical and scalable (although not extremely cheap) way to slow down significantly the spread of the coronavirus.
It seems that all current pandemic epicenter share a very similar temperature and humidity (5-11OC and 47-79% humidity). Consider the following map:
As you can see all the central outbreak locations are lying only along a narrow east west distribution roughly along the 30-50 N” corridor. This shows a correlation between hyper virus spread and specific climate conditions.
Why do I believe it’s probably true?
1. The odds that randomly by pure luck all 6 different epicenters will be with similar climates and latitude seem like a too large of coincidence, even if we take into account that the 30-50N″ corridor does seem more populous than the average. There are many very populated places outside this corridor and none of them got hit as hard.
2. Iran, Italy, China, South Korea are very different places in terms of the political system and government competence, Intuitively it’s hard to think about a better explaining cause root that caused the virus to be widely spread specifically in these locations.
3. It could also explain why some places that you would expect to be hit hard, like Thailand (which is the top global destination for Chinese tourism) or Taiwan, for now, don’t seem to have it that bad. Both of these countries have a tropical climate. Now granted there could be a higher spread in these countries that is underreported, but if they had it bad as in Italy or Iran it wouldn’t go unnoticed.
What are the implications if we believe the research?
on the downside: as the weather warms up on the northern hemisphere more places will warm up enough and could provide optimal conditions to COVID-19, the researches list the following cities as potentially dangerous areas for coronavirus spread
On the upside, if this is true there is something we might be able to do to slow down the virus spread, and the solution is simple: Increase temperatures in closed public spaces, or more simply—turn up the heat. If the coronavirus truly doesn’t like heat increasing temperature will kill it faster on surfaces. If we could raise temperatures to hot but still bearable (27C/80F is a good place) in places like supermarkets, public transportation or clinics—and by this might slow down the spreading by reducing connectivity via killing the virus faster while it’s on surfaces or in the air.
The main downside is that heating up costs money and we don’t know for sure if it will help, A way to know for sure will be to conduct research that tests this assumption directly or even create A/B tests around the country to see if on average areas with high-temperature public areas get less pandemic growth.
Another option is to heat the places only at night to consume electricity outside the peak working-hours when it’s pretty cheap anyway. The recent drops in Oil and Gas prices could mean it could be a sustainable and worthwhile act of public policy if it truly works.
EDIT: Found another research from 2011 that finds similar findings regarding the first SARS coronavirus (from 2003). It is a different virus strand but they share similarities.