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Johns Hopkins Professor Explores the Effect of Climate Elements on COVID-19 Transmission

Johns Hopkins University expert Ben Zaitchik is a professor of Earth and planetary sciences and is currently available to discuss with the media about the intense studies that are still required to conclusively establish if and how meteorological, environmental, and climatic elements affect the spread of the ongoing COVID-19.

Ben Zaitchik. Image Credit: Johns Hopkins University.

Zaitchik is currently heading an international task force of the World Meteorological Organization to set up best practices to produce precise assessments on the possible effect of weather on COVID-19.

In addition to this project, Zaitchik is also working on a NASA applied science project to explore the potential link.

There is both an urgent need and a unique opportunity to track and characterize the sensitivity of disease transmission to background climate conditions and to seasonal factors,” stated a summary of professor Zaitchik’s NASA efforts. And questions related to transmission differences and seasonal variability across climate zones are “already much debated and are highly uncertain.”

There are reasons to expect that transmission of a respiratory viral disease like COVID-19 might increase under the colder, drier conditions of winter, but at this stage evidence on this point is mixed.

Ben Zaitchik, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University

Despite the lack of peer-reviewed confirmation and adequate data, a majority of the studies which concluded that cold weather will trigger another major wave of COVID-19 this winter have started to impact the pandemic response policies by governments worldwide.

The problem has grown to such an extent that the World Meteorological Organization conducted a three-day symposium about the subject and issued a statement that included a warning to all global leaders that such conclusive declarations of a connection between COVID-19 and climate are untimely.

According to a statement from World Meteorological Organization, “Current peer-reviewed publications on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease do not show a robust and consistent response to temperature, humidity, wind, solar radiation, nor other proposed meteorological and environmental drivers.

The statement further read, “Decision-makers should be attentive to not depend on pre-reviewed papers or findings of single studies. All studies should be communicated carefully and in context, to avoid misinterpretation and misuse of information.”

According to Zaitchik, the task force at World Meteorological Organization is presently working to establish best practices that would allow scientists to measure the complex effects of weather, climate, and environmental factors on the ongoing COVID-19. 

Furthermore, the task force will work to forge partnerships to share and discuss all science-based insights and distribute them accordingly to global policymakers.

One of the first things we will do is release a statement about what it takes to do a good study.

Ben Zaitchik, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Johns Hopkins University


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