The White House on Thursday presented “emerging” research into the benefits of sunlight and humidity to mitigate the threat of the corona virus, while President Donald Trump encourages states to move to reopen their economies.
Previous studies have not found good evidence that warmer temperatures and higher humidity in the spring and summer will counteract the spread of the virus.
But William Bryan of the Department of Homeland Security said at a White House briefing that there are “new results” from new research that suggests that sunlight has a powerful effect in killing the virus on surfaces and in the air. He said scientists have seen a similar effect at higher temperatures and humidity. A biocontainment lab in Maryland has been testing the virus since February, Bryan said.
“The virus dies much faster, only from exposure to higher temperatures and only from exposure to moisture,” said Bryan.
Bryan said more knowledge about this could help governors make decisions about how and when to open their state economy. However, he stressed that the emerging results of the light and heat studies do not replace social distance recommendations.
Trump, who has consistently searched for hopeful news about containing the virus, was asked if it was dangerous to make people think they would be safe by going out in the heat, as so many people have died in Florida.
“I hope people enjoy the sun. And if it makes an impact, that’s great,” Trump replied, adding, “It’s just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, maybe brilliant man.”
“I’m here to present ideas because we want ideas to get rid of this case. And if the heat is good, and if the sunlight is good, that’s great for me, ”said the President.
Trump noted that the researchers also looked at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into humans, saying that the virus “has a huge number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to to check.” Bryan said it was not taken into account.
The President has often discussed the potential for new therapies and provided rosy timetables for vaccine development.
Earlier this month, scientific advisers told the White House that there is no good evidence yet that summer’s heat and humidity will curb the virus without continued public health measures.
Researchers convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine analyzed studies done so far to test virus survival under various laboratory conditions and to track where and how COVID-19 has spread so far.
“Since countries currently in ‘summer’ climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid spread of viruses, a decrease in cases of increases in humidity and temperature elsewhere should not be assumed,” the researchers wrote earlier in April in response to questions from the White House Office of Science and Technology.
In addition, the report cited the worldwide lack of immunity to the new virus and concluded, “If there is an effect of temperature and humidity on transmission, it may not be as clear as with other respiratory viruses for which there is at least some partial immunity. “
They noted that during ten previous flu pandemics, no matter what season they started in, they all had a peak second wave about six months after the virus first emerged.
In March, Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization emergency chief. said, “We have to assume that the virus will continue to spread, and it is a false hope to say yes, it will just disappear like flu in the summer.”