Health experts ‘expect COVID cases to rise’ in the winter

Jaqueline Flores, Reporter

As colder weather arrives, public health experts expect an increased rate of COVID-19 infections

“With cooler weather I do expect COVID cases to rise,” Kerri Lauchner, director of Health Services at California Lutheran University, said in an email interview. “The normal amount of colds and flu that we usually see will also occur due to cooler weather.”

Aditi Sengupta, visiting assistant professor of Biology, said the cooler climate plays a significant role in the transmission of COVID-19.

“The cold weather and low humidity conditions suggest that coronavirus hangs out in the air longer,” Sengupta said in an email interview.

Sengupta said people tend to spend more time indoors during winter weather and breathe heated air that dries individuals’ respiratory tracts.

“The mucus in our airways does not remove invaders like viruses with good efficiency. Therefore, winter months pose an increased risk for respiratory infections like Covid-19,” Sengupta said.

In a Zoom interview, Assistant Professor of Biology Paloma Vargas said it’s not necessarily the climate itself, but the behaviors being associated with being in a colder climate, such as gathering indoors.

Lauchner added that cases will likely increase due to holiday gatherings.

“The winter weather and holiday season warrants extra caution. The outcome of congregating in large groups during winter months (when respiratory infections anyway are high) amidst a pandemic can only suggest negative outcomes as far as the infectious spread of the virus is concerned,” Sengupta said.

Vargas said research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health, all points to reducing the number of people or the number of events happening indoors.

“The best way to ensure that you’re not going to get COVID is to stay indoors, don’t have gatherings at your home or within an indoor space. If you do have people over try to make sure it is at a limited capacity,” Vargas said.

Lauchner said Cal Lutheran is not creating additional guidelines pertaining to the cooler weather, but she recommends everyone continue wearing masks and avoid gatherings.

With flu season arriving, Vargas said she highly recommends that students get a flu shot. 

“The flu and COVID have very similar symptoms, you can reduce the risk of getting a double whammy by going and getting a flu shot,” Vargas said.

Sengupta said the first known case of co-infection with the flu and COVID has been detected in the Bay Area. The San Francisco Chronicle reported this first co-infection on Oct. 29.

Flu shots are free for all Cal Lutheran students through Health Services, all they need to do is call for an appointment, Lauchner said.

Vargas said she recommends students who plan on returning to campus next semester opt for some virtual classes, which means being exposed to fewer people and reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. She also said to wear a mask at all times.

“Please practice physical distancing, do not congregate in groups, please wear masks, wash hands frequently, practice patience, educate yourself about the science behind Covid-19 and steps taken to slow infections till a vaccine is available,” Sengupta said. “Do not engage in careless activities that put you or your friends/family/community/classmates at risk.”