As the Northern Hemisphere of our planet tilts further away from the sun, cold and freezing winds have already started to take over our days. The windbreakers are out, the socks are never off and a warm bowl of soup has become a Saga staple. But as the season to be jolly rolls around this year, there is a unique worry on our minds- COVID-19 cases all around us are getting worse.
Alma College saw its highest spike in cases ever since the semester began (28 positive cases) and the state’s trends reflect the same. The number of new coronavirus cases in Michigan has increased 39% in the past week, with many cities seeing their highest spike ever.
With this sudden and sharp rise in cases, scientists from all around the country are speaking up about the the impacts of the winter on the coronavirus. “This virus is going to have a heyday,” says David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California. “We are looking at some pretty sobering and difficult months ahead.”
In the past, a number of the most dangerous viral infections we’ve experienced have shown seasonal trends and while it may be too early to determine seasonal trends for COVID-19, its predicted the winter will only make things worse. For example, laboratory experiments revealed that SARS-CoV-2 favors cold, dry conditions, particularly out of direct sunlight; the 1918 influenza outbreak, the only pandemic that killed more Americans than COVID-19, was five times higher during the winter than other seasons. Even the flu gets significantly worse during the winter with 40 times more cases during fall and winter than in spring and summer.
While this virus may just like the winter better, that isn’t the only reason why COVID-19 cases might rise in the upcoming season. As winter comes along, indoor activities increase and more people gather together in confined spaces, many times with poor ventilation, to meet with each other. In times like these, the importance of social distancing and mask wearing has become more prominent than ever.
If these predictions come to fruition, the United States is likely to see another 400,000 deaths on top of the current death toll of 230,000. Just the current number of COVID-19 cases in the US (nine million as of October 29) have made it home to 25% of all positive cases in the world while it is home to only 4% of the world’s population.
States like Michigan which experience cold and long winters, a subsequent rise in indoor activities and an already existing high number of cases (the seventh highest out of all 50 states) have a task ahead of them, a task the college must undertake for its students too. The state must incentivize mask-wearing not just in public spaces but also in private spaces. The college, too, must continue with its Phase-I policy of minimal contact among students and regulated events around campus.
While Alma College only has only three weeks of classes remaining, our collective fight against the virus is far from over. Winter is coming and it’s time to prepare!