Tags: Coronavirus | humidity | temperature | weather | new york | singapore | droplets

New Study Reveals Virus Lives Longer in High Humidity and Low Temperatures

person wearing a large coat and pants walks across empty street in new york city

A woman wearing a facial mask makes her way across 6th Avenue near Radio City Music Hall in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

By    |   Thursday, 11 June 2020 01:46 PM

There is a reason why a city like New York got pummeled by the coronavirus compared to Singapore. A study published Tuesday said that the number of virus-laden droplets that survive on surfaces depends on the surrounding temperature and humidity. Researchers analyzed data from six cities to gather insight on the relationship between weather and the growth and spread of the virus. They concluded that weather does play a role in its viability.

According to Business Insider, scientists found that virus-laden droplets dry out faster at higher temperatures and lower humidity. Raneesh Bhardwaj, one of the study's co-authors, said their results showed “a longer drying time correlated with a larger growth rate of the pandemic.”

He told Business Insider that “certain outdoor weather is something that matters in the growth of infections.” Once a droplet evaporates, the virus quickly dies.

Similar findings from another study were reported in April in The Lancet. At 4 degrees Celsius, or 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the virus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature increased to 37 degrees Celsius, or 99 degrees Fahrenheit, it only lived a day.

New York’s growth rate for new infections per day was 35 times higher than Singapore’s, the researchers reported, and the drying time for the virus was nearly double.

“While the humidity is comparable between the two cities, New York was cold compared to Singapore when the pandemic started,” Bhardwaj told Business Insider. The research could provide insight on which geographical regions of the world could suffer a more severe second wave this winter.

There’s another implication, too, from the study's results. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s unlikely we can contract COVID-19 from touching surfaces, the scientists warned that droplets take longer to dry on smartphones, cotton and wood compared to surfaces like glass and steel.

Glass and steel are hydrophilic, meaning they wet easily, spreading a thin film of moisture over the entire surface, according to Business Insider. That allows the droplets to evaporate more easily. However, surfaces like wood, cotton and smartphones have surfaces that are called hydrophobic. They repel moisture.

“If you put water on your phone screen, it becomes a blob. That blob will take longer to dry out than water spread out over a larger area,” Bhardwaj said. Evaporation time was 60% longer on a hydrophobic surface compared to a hydrophilic one, so extra care should be taken to clean and disinfect those items.

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There is a reason why a city like New York got pummeled by the coronavirus compared to Singapore. A study published Tuesday said that the number of virus-laden droplets that survive on surfaces depends on the surrounding temperature and humidity. Researchers...
humidity, temperature, weather, new york, singapore, droplets
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