Does cold weather affect COVID spread?
Can cold weather cause an increase or decrease in the transmission of the coronavirus? Not by itself.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the virus is mainly spread between people. It can be transmitted in any kind of weather and there is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill it.
Rain and snow might dilute any traces of the virus on benches or other outside objects, but transmission from surfaces is not believed to be a major contributor to the pandemic, according to the WHO.
Scientists say the real concern about cold weather is that lower temperatures are more likely to keep people indoors — potentially in more crowded spaces, where the virus can spread more easily.
Studies have shown that a significant percentage of spread happens within households when people are sharing common areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
WHO and others have also warned that in indoor spaces with poor ventilation, transmission happens more easily because the virus particles can remain suspended in the air for several hours. Thus, most “super-spreader” events have been traced to nightclubs, gyms and even choir practices.
The coronavirus does not transmit as often outdoors because fresh air disperses the virus particles, and people are more easily able to keep their distance from others.
But experts caution that if people spend extended periods of time outdoors close to others without wearing masks, coronavirus spread is still possible.
Health officials say the best way to stop transmission of the virus is to wear a mask in public, stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) away from people not in your household and frequently wash your hands. —AP
Are “antiviral” masks better?
Do masks with antiviral coating offer more protection?
It’s an intriguing idea, but there haven’t been enough rigorous independent studies to establish whether antiviral masks are better at protecting wearers or preventing the spread of the virus.
Their specifics vary, but many antiviral masks are supposed to be made or coated with materials that have extra virus-fighting properties, such as copper.
Websites for several antiviral masks do not provide detailed information about how researchers tested their safety or effectiveness, said Hyo-Jick Choi, a materials science expert at the University of Alberta.
But it usually takes years to design and test new mask technology, said Choi, who is part of a group that has been developing a different type of antiviral mask since before the pandemic.
Masks marketed as being “antiviral” often cost more than N-95 and surgical masks. A single coated mask can cost up to $10; disposable surgical masks and N-95 masks sell at large retailers for between 35 cents and $3 per mask.
Choi said a simpler way to boost the effectiveness of the masks you’re already using is to ensure you’re putting them on, wearing them and taking them off correctly.
And no mask can fully protect wearers, “but almost any mask can help to protect others around the wearers,” said Jiaxing Huang, a professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. —AP
Typically, how long does a COVID-19 infection last?
Most coronavirus patients have mild to moderate illness and recover quickly. Older, sicker patients tend to take longer to recover. That includes those who are obese or have high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.
The WHO says recovery typically takes two to six weeks. One U.S. study found that around 20% of non-hospitalized individuals ages 18 to 34 still had symptoms at least two weeks after becoming ill. The same was true for nearly half of people age 50 and older.
Among those sick enough to be hospitalized, a study in Italy found 87% were still experiencing symptoms two months after getting sick. Lingering symptoms included fatigue and shortness of breath.
Dr. Khalilah Gates, a Chicago lung specialist, said many of her hospitalized COVID-19 patients still have coughing episodes, breathing difficulties and fatigue three to four months after infection.
It’s also hard to predict which patients will develop complications after their initial illness subsides.
COVID-19 can affect nearly every organ, and long-term complications can include heart inflammation, decreased kidney function, fuzzy thinking, anxiety and depression.
It is unclear whether the virus itself or the inflammation it can cause leads to these lingering problems, said Dr. Jay Varkey, an Emory University infectious diseases specialist.
“Once you get over the acute illness, it’s not necessarily over,” he said. —AP