A Department of Homeland Security scientific study has presented encouraging findings that suggest COVID-19 is proving less virulent under sun light, higher temperatures, and humidity.
And President Donald Trump is touting the findings as a potential key way to curb the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic by relaxing social distancing guidelines this summer.
"The scientists at DHS have released a report offering a number of insights about how the virus reacts to different temperatures, climates, and surfaces," Trump told reporters during the coronavirus task force daily press briefing Thursday. "The findings confirm that the virus is better in colder and drier environments, and does less well in warmer and more humid environments."
DHS Under Secretary for Science Bill Bryan presented the findings of his science and technology study, using samples of COVID-19 received in February.
"Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on surfaces both in the air and on surfaces," Bryan said. "We found increasing the temperature, humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.
"The virus ... dies the quickest under direct sunlight," he added.
Bryan reported that in a room at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit and low humidity (20%) the half-life of COVID-19 in the air is about an hour, but when outside and exposed to sunlight, it is about a minute and a half.
"Very significant difference when he gets hit with the UV rays," Bryan said. "Mr. President, while there are many unknown links in the COVID-19 transmission chain, we believe these trends can support practical decision-making to lower the risks associated with the virus.
"It would be irresponsible for us to say that we feel the summer will totally kill the virus and it's a free-for-all and ignore the guidance, that's not the case," he added. "We have an opportunity, though, to get ahead with what we know now and factor that into the decision-making on what opens and what doesn't."
Trump stressed he is not telling Americans to go outside recklessly now amid mitigation and social distancing guidelines in states, but he did suggest the scientific study supported his hunch the virus might burn out in the summer months, making it more likely the U.S. can feel more confident in returning to more activities then.
"I am hoping people enjoy the sun," Trump said. "If it has an impact, that's great."
Bryan, amid the findings, added he is more likely to go outside in his yard with his family versus remaining indoors.
"When you see this, a lot of people have been talking about summer, maybe this is one of the reasons," Trump said. "I once mentioned that maybe it does go away with heat and light and people didn't like that statement very much. The fake news didn't like it at all, and I just threw it out as a suggestion. But it seems like that's the case. When it's on the surface, that could last for a long time. When it is on that surface, it dies very quickly with the sun."
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