By Mark Puleo, AccuWeather staff writer
& Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
& Adriana Navarro, AccuWeather staff writer
AccuWeather-(ENEWSPF)- The new coronavirus, and COVID-19, the disease it causes, surfaced in late 2019, and by mid-March had become a full-blown crisis worldwide. The global death toll climbed above 6,000 by March 15, just a few days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in the United States. Within four days, confirmed cases soared past 235,000, the death toll climbed above 9,500 and cases were reported in at least 160 countries and regions.
As testing has increased, the crisis escalated with health officials around the world reporting more than 21,000 new cases on March 19 alone. With cases spreading, and the epicenter of the outbreak shifting to Europe, life in the Western world has been upended the way it had been in Asia earlier in the developing crisis.
On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. This is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the CDC.
The number of cases of COVID-19 outside of China exploded 13-fold over a two-week period covering late February into early March, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”
After weeks of spreading through the United States, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 13,000 and at least 175 deaths were blamed on the virus.
Weather and its potential impact on how COVID-19 behaves have remained a consistent focus since the outbreak erupted and experts are divided over what impact, if any, warmer weather will have on the spread of the outbreak.
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, has said that warm weather will “probably not” slow down the spread, at least not significantly.
And Michael Osterholm, the director of Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) echoed that sentiment and cautioned that the world is only in the beginning stages of the outbreak. “This is a coronavirus winter,” he cautioned, saying he expects the outbreak to go on for six months or more. Both Lipsitch’s and Osterholm’s positions came in March and stand in opposition to some previous analysis.
In early February, Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls said he expected the virus to “burn itself out” by around May because of increased sunlight, higher temperatures and more humidity, according to a leaked transcript of a private conference call in early February.
In mid-March, Nicholls told AccuWeather that new research of a lab-grown copy of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness, shows “In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones.” He also warned that “human factors” associated with the virus “are more unpredictable.”
The CDC has cautioned that not enough is known about the virus to say for sure that weather will affect the spread, but a spokesperson said, “I’m happy to hope that it [the threat] goes down as the weather warms up.”